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Shaming and Shunning


Some Charlottesville friends of ours are making a pilgrimage to Lexington VA to show support for the owner of the Red Hen restaurant, who took a bold direct action rejecting our corrupt presidency. Beseiged by sudden noteriety, she doesn't deserve the nasty attacks from the trumpians, and now from trump himself. The owner is right that it is time to stand up and reject the abasement of civil society, the crude and cold and cruel policies of this Administration, and I would not second guess her judgment in the circumstances. So I applaud my friends for standing up and taking action.

But I'm still puzzling out what I believe about the implcations and consequences of a strategy of "public shaming and shunning" of the visible faces of Trump's enablers. (The Red Hen event is inevitably lumped in with the others, tho it was different: handled discretely and politely-- and privately until the "victim" posted the story on her WH web site to 3 mil. followers. But the idea of a public establishment denying service based on ideology or political role to a quiet family gathering of seven makes me uncomfortable. If such became common practice, it would restrict our shared public space even further, foster incivility, and build more walls between neighbors).

The rash of public shamings is red meat for Trump. Look how he's smiling when he tells a recent rally that his outraged opposition "... are really, really angry" That plays directly into his core strategy of inflaming public opinion to fever pitch before the election, specifically on immigration, his go-to winning issue since the first debate.. He told Congress last week to forget about immigration legislation until after the "Red Wave" in November. Why? He wants it to be an open sore-- he's betting that he can use the issue more effectively without them.. and he might be right. His support among Republicans is 90%! Even now! Far from being condemned for separating families, he even gets a sympathy vote because everyone is picking on him, according to a story in the Post! (See also this morning's Post editorial cautioning about the shaming strategy.)

If we start to play tit for tat in this way, it will likely escalate, and the ugly, corrosive forces surely win-- which means we all lose. The nativist mob mentality will again feed on the anger and fear and embolden the white nationalists/supremacists, who are ready and waiting.

You can't beat incivility with incivility, or violence with violence-- and you can't shame a shameless person. Gandhi and King showed us that non-violence can defeat injustice, We need some equivalent of that idea now, and some positive vision to unify and animate the Blue Wave.

Meanwhile, I hope the Red Hen will live long and prosper.


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