As we begin a new week, it is probably wise to reflect a bit on the week that just passed since it was a strange one even by the standards of strangeness we live with these days. To borrow a line from Thomas Paine “These are the times that try men’s souls”.
First, and sort of most recent, Sarah Huckabee Sanders: White House Communications Director & Press Secretary, self-avowed Christian, experienced political operative, and daughter of Mike Huckabee (occasional presidential contender & former governor of Arkansas with strong self-professed Christian beliefs), a woman who does an impressive job of deadpanning through most of the White House’s lies, contradictions and daily dramas, was asked to leave a small restaurant in a small city in Virginia on Friday. According to the owner’s own statement after it became public, she made the request that Sanders leave out of concern and respect for her staff, several of whom are gay. She also said she would do it again. It is likely that this was a low risk action for her, her city is in a pocket that voted for Clinton in 2016, and still numbers few Trump supporters, and her restaurant is well-established. Regardless, it carries risk – both professionally and personally. I admire people who stand up for their beliefs, and those of means who stand with the marginalized. But… Personally, I think that a business should not deny service to anyone that is willing & able to pay for that service. Regardless of religious, political, or other views. Sanders (and her father, and most of the members of the current administration) fully supports the rights of a business, like a bakery for example, to deny services, say a wedding cake, to gays based on the owner’s religious convictions. Or for a pharmacist not to fill a prescription for birth control pills. Now, however, it seems that Sanders (who in a clear ethics violation used her official White House Twitter account to discuss the incident), is somewhat playing victim, and many conservative outlets are loudly calling for protests and boycotts – and have been also writing negative reviews on sites such as Yelp. At the time of the Masterpiece Cake suit both sides liked to point out that “it isn’t about the cake.” For those of us that were not supportive of a claim of ‘it’s against my religion to provide services for a same-sex wedding”, it was about the slippery slope of denying services to people based on abstracts. We either support everyone’s rights or we ultimately support no one’s. And this is a core principle of mine. It isn’t always easy, or pleasant, but it is important.
On a similar note, earlier this week Homeland Security Secretary, Kirstjen Nielsen, was heckled out of a Mexican restaurant near the White House when she stopped in for dinner. While I don’t think that it is right to heckle diners, the tone-deafness on Nielsen’s part was truly astonishing – in the middle of a national storm over the administration’s zero-tolerance policy for illegal immigration, and the resulting separation of children from the adults they’d traveled with, the policy’s public face (it should have been Attorney General Jeff Sessions, but that’s a different discussion) thought a stop at a Mexican restaurant made sense. Irony and nuance are clearly lost with this administration.
This week also saw the executive order requiring families to be kept together while in detention under the zero-tolerance policy. This was clearly done under duress – a fact made obvious by Trump’s words and actions in subsequent days . There is no real structured plan in place to reunite those that had previously been separated, and it is obvious that it will not be accomplished quickly. While I realize that some of my extended family don’t find anything wrong with these separations because “they brought their kids along to commit a crime” – and I cannot even engage on the subject with those that take that view because it is very clear that our value systems, morality, and sense of right & wrong, are too different to bridge – the simple fact is that children should not be used as pawns, or punished, by adults as an deterrent for something that the children are innocent of. As a mother, as a sentient being, it is beyond my comprehension why anyone would think that separating young children from their families is acceptable for a misdemeanor. Or worse, for asylum seekers. There will certainly be more said on this subject, but it is seldom wise to speak in anger, so no, not today.
There were a few other odd things this week – Melania Trump wearing a $39 jacket on the day of her surprise trip to Texas to visit one of the children’s detention centers. I think it is important to note that she did not wear the jacket to the center – she wore it while traveling. Emblazoned on the back of the jacket was “I really don’t care do U”. Her spokeswoman said it meant nothing, her husband tweeted that it was about “fake news”, and there were some that said it was actually directed at her husband. I’m sure it meant something because it was an off the rack $39 coat – not a Trump thing – but I don’t completely know why anyone really cares what message she was sending to whom, and it certainly served as yet another in an endless list of unimportant distractions that tie up energy that should be spent paying attention to congress – who is working on gutting social security and medicare. Or to pushing to reunite the children with their families. And then there was good Christian, and certainly not a racist, Mike Huckabee, who tweeted a picture of Hispanic males flashing gang signs labeled as Nancy Pelosi’s re-election campaign committee. I have several words for that, however those words are considered offensive by most people. But that tweet was offensive, so there you have it – Huckabee becomes a bigger ass the older he gets – time was when I actually had a modicum of respect for him – but those days are long gone. And the list of oddities goes on…
But today is a new day and the start of a new week. Hope springs eternal.
And because I cannot repeat this often enough lately:
“We must not see any person as an abstraction. Instead, we must see in every person a universe with its own secrets, with its own treasures, with its own sources of anguish, and with some measure of triumph.” — Elie Wiesel
Sunrise, July 2014, as the balloons rose over the Hudson River.