Essays · Strangers

Fighting Injustice

The U.S. Supreme Court has somehow, despite all evidence to the contrary, proclaimed U.S. President* Trump’s Muslim ban constitutional. The U.S. Government is holding small children in cages after having ripped them from their parents — who are fleeing for their lives — and they have no plan for reunification. Meanwhile, high schoolers and younger are getting massacred in their classrooms, but gun violence is seemingly one topic the U.S. President* is scared to broach. (Shocking, right?)

The U.S President* is wreaking havoc on individuals with his xenophobic, racist, misogynistic, bigoted policies, and his cabinet and members of the Republican Party are complicit. The U.S. Government is devolving into an authoritarian regime, and people are being harmed. But there isn’t a federal election for another four and a half months, and no presidential election for over two years.

We can’t just vote every couple of years and then let things happen in between. And people know it, as evidenced by large protests in 2017 — the Women’s March, the March for Science, the airport protests. There are professional organizations such as the ACLU and the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee fighting through legal channels. people who oppose these inhumane government actions are running for office — and often winning.

While this (ostensibly) isn’t a primarily political website, it is an etiquette website, so I would like to draw your attention to the latest action people are taking to ensure their voices are heard: making public life difficult for those who choose to participate in the immoral actions undertaken by the U.S. President* and the Republican Party.

You’ve hopefully heard about these actions. There was Sarah Huckabee Sanders, member of the Asshole Hall of Fame, who was asked to leave a restaurant after staff said they were uncomfortable with her presence. There was DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielson, who, after supporting the Nazi-esque action of separating children from their families for no reason, had the nerve to eat at a Mexican restaurant, and was rightly shouted down.

As a self-proclaimed etiquette expert, I’d like to make it crystal clear: there is nothing in these actions of public shaming that threatens our civil society.

The threat to civility does not come from those shouting “If the kids don’t eat in peace, you don’t eat in peace,” but from those who choose to view people from other nations as “animals” and less than human. The threat to civility does not come from a courageous restaurant owner recognizing that a customer’s presence is harmful to her staff, but from those who would defend the idea of banning people from the USA because of their religion.

There have been some opinion posts and editorials suggesting that if those of us on the right side of history take these actions, then those who disagree with us will start to do the same thing (as though they haven’t been shouting at women every Saturday outside Planned Parenthood for…ever). Which … okay? If someone doesn’t want me eating in their restaurant because I support abortion rights, then I don’t want to give them my money.

But also, that supposes that somewhere, deep down, we should be ashamed of our beliefs. And that simply isn’t the case. There is nothing shameful about supporting a mother fleeing domestic violence. There is nothing shameful about wanting people to be able to come to the USA regardless of their religious beliefs. And I am not a high-level government official implementing policies. There is nothing about the actions I’ve taken at my job that you could shout at me in a restaurant that should shame me.

But the same can’t be said for Sarah Huckabee Sanders or Kirstjen Nielsen.

Moreover, this isn’t just about shaming the individuals — it is about taking a public stand against injustice. The babies in cages might not ever see that there are people in the USA who care about them, but their extended families might. Muslims prevented from coming to the USA may have seen the airport protests on TV. We’ve all seen the quote, attributed to Edmund Burke, that “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” We can’t vote until November. Our elected officials are letting us down. Shouting at a Trump cabinet member is one of the most civil thing we can do these days while taking a stand for justice.

There is nothing wrong with public figures facing public consequences for their public actions. It’s not an issue of manners, or etiquette — it’s an issue of standing up for what is right. You aren’t a jerk if you see any number of high-level officials trying to get away from it all. The children in cages don’t get a respite. The Iranian husband who doesn’t know if he can visit the US with his US citizen wife doesn’t get a respite. The children killed while attending school certainly don’t get a respite.

Why on earth should members of the Trump administration and the GOP?

We can’t just wait for elections. We need to be speaking out now. What the U.S. President is doing is not in any way civil, and he and his staff need to be reminded of that every. Single. Day.

 

*Always an asterisk, since Mr. Trump lost the popular vote quite handily.

 

 

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