HAVE YOU BEEN SERVED?
There has been a lot of noise in the news lately about whether it is good form for a restaurant owner to request a Trump administration official to leave, or protestors to make it uncomfortable for Trump administration officials to have a quiet dinner in public. I think it’s time for me to ring in, because, like everyone else, I have an opinion on this topic, and, also like everyone else, I have a blog.
The shunning of those who do not agree has a long history, dating back to as far as we have records. Refusal of service for those you dislike or disagree with has been on the Republican wish list for some time, and in a recent Supreme Court case, they got at least part of what they want (more on that in a later column!) when the court allowed a baker to refuse to make a cake for a gay couple. In addition, a number of so-called religious freedom acts have been enshrining the right of people to refuse service to those they disapprove of on religious grounds…usually same sex couples, but also women who want birth control, mixed race couples, trans-people, and any others who meet the definition of religiously unacceptable. Many on the left are using this as justification for refusing service – we’re simply doing to them what they have demanded. Just make it on religious grounds, some say. Others say they have an ethical imperative not to serve evil people.
I see a couple of problems with this. First, when conservatives adopt liberal techniques, as many did after the heady days of the 1960s, they tend to make them much more successful even than they were for the liberals. Second, when liberals adopt conservative techniques, they tend to fail miserably. The pundits and political analysts are shocked, appalled, and disturbed that people would act with such incivility. These are, by the way, the same pundits who attribute disagreeing with voters in fly-over country to the natural nastiness and incivility of coastal elites, and make a lot of excuses for how these folks are just trying to stay afloat in a world that pays no attention to them. The pundits will gloss over every nasty comment of certain orange presidential candidates on the Republican ticket, only to pontificate for hours on end (days…weeks…months…actually, it’s been 2 years now) about a single “deplorable” comment made by pantsuit-wearing Democratic candidates. So, in short, the pundits aren’t buying your version of the story. They do not see you using conservative techniques, doing unto them as they would do unto you, or doing what the other side has enshrined in the political dialogue. They see you being nasty, uncivil, rude, unkind, and…well, I know I said it before, but…nasty.
The other problem? We become what we are fighting against. Once that happens, there is no more reason to fight, because we have sunk into the sewer with them, and once we take over we’ll find we’re still in the sewer. We can’t be them if we’re going to be the opposition. Opposition = opposite. We must be better than they are. We must be different than they are. We must offer a true alternative to the ugly hatred that currently renders every tweet newsworthy. We must not become what we don’t like.
So, dear Number 6, what would you have us do, then? We can’t just sit back and do nothing, right? Right. So I’m going to go out on a limb here and take a tactic from the Shakespeare play I hate the most (yeah, I know, it’s awful, but…even when he was awful, the bard was always poetic!) Kill them with kindness. Be not just better than they are…be better even than you are. Show just how nice, how good, how civil it is possible to be, and then pile on more. So what would that look like? Well, when Sarah Sanders or Scott Pruitt or Jeff Sessions shows up in your establishment, greet them with effuse kindness. Welcome them in and seat them in the best seat. Give them the best service you can give them. If your employees don’t want to serve them, take on the job yourself. Don’t make some poor overworked underpaid minion grovel before the person that is taking away their health insurance, their right to choice, or their right to marry the person they love. Do it yourself. Give them personal attention, keep their water glass filled, don’t spit in their food, and make sure their order is right, just the right temperature, and quick.
When they are done eating, if your establishment is in a place where you can do this and can afford to do it, refuse to charge them. Here you can take off the gloves a bit. Tell them you don’t want dirty money. Or you don’t want money that has been taken out of the mouths of children. Or you don’t want to make money off the misery of the LGBTQ community. That is one option.
Another possible option is putting a note on their check, or informing them in polite tones loud enough for nearby diners to hear, that every dollar they spent is being matched by the restaurant to go to…here you can fill in the charity that deals with the problem you and/or your employees find the most pressing about their administration. This might change depending on who you are serving. It could be environmental, women’s rights, anti-domestic violence, LGBTQ rights, immigrant rights, or the local low-income shelters. Then follow through. Make the donation in the name of the client you just served, and request that a notification be sent to them so they will see the good they have done by eating in your restaurant. Tweet your donation, if you like. Put it on your Facebook. Feel free to blow your own horn, but never, ever, ever lose the polite, courteous, oh so kind manner. You are better than they are…and you can make the world better, or at least your little corner of the world.
Let’s rescue our political life, our government, and ourselves from the forces that threaten to turn us all into grotesque caricatures of human beings. Let’s get rid of the gargoyles, and go back to being people again. Kill them with kindness. In the end, you’ll get better press, and you’ll feel better about yourself because you rose above.