Not unlike a lot of opinion journalists, for years I’ve been harping on the lack of civility that increasingly permeates our public discourse.
Immigration, NFL protests, gun rights, you name it, we are somehow unable to have a civil debate about it. From a South Carolina congressman yelling, “You lie!” at then-President Barack Obama during a State of the Union address to this past weekend’s heckling of Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi at a movie theater.
We’ve got to find a way to get past this. For our own sanity. And Thanksgiving dinners. And kids’ soccer games. And movie openings.
On Friday night, a group of protesters accosted Bondi outside the screening of the new documentary about Mister Rogers at the Tampa Theatre, questioning her about her recent actions on health care policy and her stance on immigration.
A video of the confrontation, taken by progressive activist Timothy Heberlein of Organize Florida, shows several people shouting down Bondi as she leaves the theater escorted by law enforcement after seeing “Won’t You Be My Neighbor.”
This followed news, of course, of the most infamous incident of the weekend: senior White House spokeswoman Sara Huckabee Sanders being tossed out of a Virginia restaurant by the owners.
Sanders, who has not engendered the most support from the liberal side of the political spectrum as a lightning rod for the ire of Trump haters, said over the weekend that she had been asked to leave the Red Hen restaurant because she worked in the Trump administration. She added that she “politely left” after the request.
The restaurant’s co-owner, Stephanie Wilkinson, later told The Washington Post that her staff had called her to report Sanders was at the restaurant on Saturday night. Wilkinson said several restaurant employees are gay and knew Sanders had defended Trump’s desire to bar transgender people from the military.
Sanders’ tweet created a firestorm on Twitter, with many conservatives and Trump supporters, including her father, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, chiming in with criticism of the restaurant.
Where does it end? We seem to have reached the point of no return when it comes to incivility among our citizens. And now, many folks are asking folks to pump the brakes.
Again, growing incivility in our discourse has been an issue for years — much of it racially charged for political purposes by Obama’s election, police shootings, etc. But we’ve apparently gone beyond vocal disagreements over abortion rights to not even sitting next to one another in a restaurant or movie theater, filling prescriptions at the same pharmacy or buying a wedding cake from the same baker.
A primary reason for things reaching this new level, whether some of us want to admit it or not, lies at the feet of President Trump and his almost daily divisive Twitter rants in the name of not being politically correct.
The trouble is liberals or progressives are no longer content with turning the other cheek. Beyond the protests and calls to action on everything from Confederate monuments to women’s rights to gun rights, the left-wingers now seem as energized as their counterparts on the right under the Obama administration.
It’s now commonplace to hear Trump supporters and Republicans — who still approve of the job he’s doing — ask for folks to “just give him a chance.”
“Fat chance,” say an increasing number of liberals. “Like the chance you gave Barack Obama?” they reply.
If we’re not quite down the rabbit hole here, we’re getting uncomfortably close. And we don’t need folks pushing us even further.
Maxine Waters, the Democratic firebrand congresswoman from California, chided a crowd this weekend to “push back” against Trump supporters wherever you see them, “in a restaurant, in the department store, in a gas station.”
We don’t need that.
But Bondi wasn’t much better. She went on Fox News Sunday to boast of not backing down from protesters — with appropriate police backup of course — and suggested, “The next people are going to come with guns. That’s what’s going to happen.”
Yeah, real helpful.
And then there’s the president himself, who once again took to Twitter to dis the restaurant that booted Sanders.
“The Red Hen Restaurant should focus more on cleaning its filthy canopies, doors and windows (badly needs a paint job) rather than refusing to serve a fine person like Sarah Huckabee Sanders,” Trump tweeted Monday morning.
“I always had a rule, if a restaurant is dirty on the outside, it is dirty on the inside!” he added.
It was unclear Monday whether Trump had ever visited the establishment — the Red Hen in Lexington, Virginia, which is 50 miles northeast of Roanoke near the Shenandoah Valley — or how he would have determined its level of cleanliness.
The Red Hen passed its latest state health inspection, in February, without any violations.
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He later also went to Twitter to take some sophomoric jabs at Waters.
As I said earlier, the president can shut a lot of this down or at least put us on a path back to civility with his own words and actions.
The question will he, or maybe we’ve already gone to far down that rabbit hole.