Originally Published: June 27, 2018 6 a.m.
You’d think a pan-seared pork chop wouldn’t come freighted with political baggage.
But politics, and that pork chop ($28, with Wades Mill Goat cheese grits, caramelized Sunflower Flats onions and a Dijon Jus) were most definitely on the menu at the Red Hen restaurant in Lexington, Virginia, on June 22.
In case you missed it, in the ultimate dinner table argument over politics, Red Hen owner Stephanie Wilkinson asked White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and her family to leave her restaurant after her staff raised red flags. Wilkinson told The Washington Post that she wanted to keep politics out of her restaurant, which is located in a town that voted against President Donald Trump in a county that voted overwhelmingly for him.
Huckabee Sanders worked for an “inhumane and unethical” administration and she couldn’t be allowed to stay.
“I’m not a huge fan of confrontation,” Wilkinson told The Post. “I have a business, and I want the business to thrive. This feels like the moment in our democracy when people have to make uncomfortable actions and decisions to uphold their morals.”
Wilkinson isn’t wrong on the basics.
Huckabee Sanders does work for an unethical and inhumane administration. She’s wrong about, well, absolutely everything. And she regularly dissembles from her lectern in the White House briefing room.
But she should still be allowed to eat in peace. And her family shouldn’t be punished over her mistakes.
U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., who has called for her supporters to publicly confront Trump administration officials over their appalling immigration policy, and to chase them out of public places, is dead wrong, too.
“If you see anybody from that cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out and you create a crowd, and you push back on them, and you tell them they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere,” Waters said, according to Time, and other news outlets.
That’s an awful long way from former First Lady Michelle Obama’s famous admonition that “When they go low, we go high.”
But her words are more important than ever.
Confronted by a president who now wants to dispense with the rule of law; striking at the heart of our system by denying due process to people whom he refers to as an infestation; questioning the patriotism of black Americans; who willfully neglected the people of Puerto Rico, White House critics still need to heed Mrs. Obama’s words.
Let’s be clear — this isn’t about not protesting. This isn’t about not holding the administration accountable for its clearly discriminatory policies against racial, ethnic and economic minorities.
This isn’t about pulling back from shining a light on the self-dealing of Trump and his minions. And this isn’t about ending the practice of debunking the torrent of falsehoods that regularly emanate from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
This is about upholding the basic standards of civil discourse. About being better. It’s about not becoming the thing you despise.
If you hate that the president compared actual human beings to invading insects, or believes that entire ethnic groups are little more than a pack of criminals, don’t descend to that level.
Rise above it. Show, by example, that you’re better than that.
Fight them at every turn if that’s where you are, but go high.
I know it’s hard.
I’m as guilty as anyone else of tweeting before I think, or being needlessly hostile, when a more rational touch will do. Sometimes, when you’re in the thick of it, that balance can be hard to maintain. Tempers flare. And things happen.
We’re at a time when when we’re questioning who we are as a nation. It seems like a day doesn’t go by with one of our institutions under assault, with a leader who gaslights and dissembles when he should be inspiring. But that’s asking too much of Donald Trump. It’s not asking too much of his critics to be better. If you want a better country, it starts there.
Counter lies with facts; hate with openness; bigotry with acceptance; make your voice heard at the ballot box. Beat them with the power of your ideas.
An award-winning political journalist, John Micek is the Opinion Editor and Political Columnist for PennLive/The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Readers may follow him on Twitter @ByJohnLMicek and email him at email@example.com.