Things are getting even crazier down in Lexington, Virginia, where the co-owner of a restaurant called the Red Hen refused to serve White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders last weekend for the crime of working for a president of an opposing political party. Local press reports that a man was arrested Tuesday for throwing manure at the restaurant during a protest. Other, completely separate businesses with the same name are getting nasty phone calls and Internet reviews.
Virginia’s Republican Party has started an online effort to boycott the restaurant. The restaurant co-owner, Stephanie Wilkinson, just resigned from a local economic development board called Main Street Lexington.
A woman in another Virginia town with the same name as Wilkinson has received hate mail and death threats. She says she has gotten more than 400 phone calls since last weekend, after apparently somebody posted her cell number online in a doxxing attempt: “One of them told me to put the barrel of a shotgun down my throat.”
“I’ve never been to Lexington. I don’t even know about the Red Hen,” the other Wilkinson told local news station NBC 12. “Usually I’ll just swipe left and decline them, but every once in a while I’ll answer one. They call me an F’ing liar, a liberal liar or a communist pig.”
No. Stop. This is sick. It would be sick even if the recipient were the right Wilkinson. Even if you disagree with what Wilkinson did — and I do — it is wrong to return evil for evil. This is America. We believe in defending to the death the other person’s right to say things we don’t agree with. We believe in turning the other cheek, in doing good to those who persecute you. That two wrongs don’t make a right. At least, we did once.
Here’s something else America is good at: Turning around and admitting that we’ve screwed up. We’ve done that for far worse injustices than uncivilly refusing to sell dinner to somebody someone else doesn’t like, and throwing poop at them in revenge. We’ve done it for the Trail of Tears. We’ve done it for chattel slavery. We’ve done it for women’s rights. We’ve done it for Jim Crow.
If we can admit those big, horrible things were wrong, we can also admit this stupid, petty situation is wrong. It is wrong to scream at fellow Americans with different political ideas. It is wrong to go postal and send death threats to people who want to exercise their right to free association, and free commerce.
While this behavior is just flat-out morally wrong, it is also big-time strategically counterproductive. All it does is validate Wilkinson and the general progressive Left’s views that the Right is a bunch of jack-booted fascists. If we want people to think we’re better than this kind of thing, we need to actually be better than it. And I think we actually are. The protesters and the poop-throwers do not represent a majority or even close to one, either on the Right or the Left. They are visible because they are loud. So it’s time for all the decent people to get louder, and more visible — in the nicest way possible.
I urge everybody within a reasonable driving distance of the Red Hen to go over and leave a bouquet of flowers at their front door, which is currently locked in fear of what might happen if it opens. No American should be afraid to open her business because somebody might come in and beat or scream at her for expressing different political views, even rudely. Send the real — and the fake — Stephanie Wilkinson and her Red Hen a bouquet of flowers, a greeting card, an Edible Arrangements. I’m sure at least the business address is easy to find with an Internet search. Tell her America is not made of haters like the people she’s hiding from right now.
When the restaurant re-opens, if you live nearby go dine there and leave a big, fat tip. I’m sure the food is delicious, because the Red Hen sure is a fancy restaurant. It’s so good the White House press secretary wanted to eat there. Show the Red Hen by example the right way to treat people with whom you disagree.
If they were treated this way, there’s a much better bet Wilkinson and the other Red Hen staff would come to their senses and realize they can also be better than how they treated Sanders the first time. Maybe they’d even invite her back for a special dinner. Sure, that could be too much to hope for, but it’s certainly worth aiming for instead of the shameful alternative we see playing out right now. Aim high, not low. It improves the odds.
There is a time and a place for fighting fire with fire. Social situations like this are not it. Nobody wins by persecuting a private citizen for her beliefs. America can and should be better than this. You and I, we are America. There are things we can do to show that we pray for those who persecute members of our tribe, and we love to eat their food and give them our business. Because everything is not about politics. We can unite around shared loves, like the love of a good meal, or our love of freedom to express our ideas openly, without fear.
America needs us all to do this right now. We cannot continue down this path of recriminations for petty social slights. We all have a very strong interest in restoring grace to everyday interactions. The sole alternative is escalation, and things are already bad enough. While some fringe people may want that, 99 percent of us do not. Let’s act like it.
Call it the Chick-fil-A model of converting your self-declared enemies: When they scream at you and hold protests, hand them free sandwiches. Offer them a cold drink on a hot day, with a smile. Overcome evil with good.