Personal attacks on Trump staffers won’t end well for America

Are we really heading to a place as a nation where people of opposing views can’t share a restaurant?

Last week, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen was protested out of a restaurant in DC, and over the weekend White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked to leave The Red Hen restaurant in Virginia.

As I noted on Twitter: “Last week: Anthony Bourdain was amazing because he taught us about breaking bread with different kinds of people and getting to know each other over food. This week: But not you.”

“Anthony Bourdain would have never served Nazis” came thousands of replies. It seemed pointless for me to respond that Sanders isn’t a Nazi.

Sanders also doesn’t make policy. The owner of the Red Hen said she asked Sanders to leave because she “publicly defended the president’s cruelest policies, and that that could not stand.” What about talking heads or opinion columnists who defend his policies, are they now barred from the Red Hen, too? What about those of us who generally disagree with the administration but sometimes find ourselves on the same side? Are we only welcome on alternate weeks?

I watched the responses to my Bourdain tweet roll in Sunday afternoon while sitting on the waterfront, tearing into blue crabs and having a cold beer at Clemente’s Crab House in Brooklyn. The cursing and the fury, the arguments that people who support this administration should not leave the house, could not be more different from the scene around me.

At the table behind us, a couple was speaking Russian. In front, two old women argued in Italian. Diagonally, six women wearing rainbows sat down, fresh from the Pride parade in “the city.” At my own table, a Hillary Clinton-voter, a nonvoter, a third-party voter.

The sound system at the restaurant played the rapper Nas, then the country singer Cole Swindell.

Clemente’s is located in the hole-in-the-wall Assembly District 59, Election District 46. Just 10 people voted in the 2016 presidential election; Hillary Clinton won by one vote. The surrounding areas went almost uniformly Trump, a sea of red in a blue city in a blue state.

Who gets custody of places like Clemente’s in the divorce?

If these incidents fill you with glee over the Trump officials getting what they deserve, consider that it definitely won’t end with this happening to just one side. Congresswoman Maxine Waters is encouraging people to “push back” on Cabinet members they see at gas stations or department stores. Harassing public servants won’t stop with just the Trump administration.

Even before 2020 or 2024, the other side will fire back and it won’t be pretty. Already people are circulating the names of businesses, mostly farms, that supply the Red Hen restaurant. Those harassing people for their worldview in public should think long and hard about the repercussions.

Nor is this breaking of social norms solely because of the child-detainment issue. Separating children from their parents is abhorrent, heart-breaking — inexcusable. But the harassment long predates the current controversy. FCC chairman Ajit Pai had protesters outside his home, with signs mentioning his children by name because of Net Neutrality. Betsy DeVos was physically blocked by protestors from visiting a school. Ivanka Trump was harassed on a JetBlue flight.

Meanwhile Barack Obama’s former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson admitted that they, too, detained children and families. No protests appeared on his lawn, no restaurant denied him or others in the administration service over the issue.

Washington Post food writer Tim Carman pointed to a Politico piece that detailed where the young staffers in the Trump administration hung out. “I suspect that, in this liberal town, young Trump staffers did no one any favors by naming these places as their frequent watering holes and restaurants,” he sneered.

Superstar chef and frequent Trump critic José Andrés‏ tweeted back, “Dear Tim: Restaurants should be places where different people, from different political spectrums are able to share a table in a civilized manner.” He quoted Michelle Obama’s line that “when they go low we go high,” and said we should fight hate with love.

Few noticed the tweet. This was no time for calls of civility.

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