• Daniel Ethan Finneran

No Shoes, No Shirts, No Politics

July 2018

The breezy, beachside adage almost everywhere applies: “No shoes, no shirt, no service”. Of all the summertime proscriptions through which you’ll gleefully dance as these next three months get underway, it’s this one that’s by far the most palatable. Taped to every barroom entrance, hung on every restaurant’s door (usually and charmingly, one might add, by way of some careful employee’s printed hand), this triple alliance of negatives, this sun-drenched syllogism of what will and won’t be tolerated can be found.

It’s a warning of the consequences should you fail to keep yourself adequately, nay, minimally clad. Yet never is it so stern as to become a rule at which a forgiving shop owner might not wink. It, in this way, takes on the warmth of a friendly warning—being at once both inviting and forbidding, encouraging yet resolute. To see it is to know it’s officially summer. And for that, we rejoice. To heed it is something quite different. It’s to deign to the decorum expected of us at any other boring, cold time of the year—be it winter, fall, or spring. Even during the last, at whose end summer’s tantalizing horizon is all but within reach, all raiment, cap-a-pie, need apply—no questions asked.

But apparently, added to the sequence of “No’s” this summer is this: “No shoes, no shirt, no conformity of thought and of political opinion…no service”. From barren chests to sandy toes, that certainly escalated fast. Doubtless, with that foregoing addition, the quaintness and the charm of the original has lost some of its venial appeal. As we reluctantly burden our sun-burnt selves with heavy shirts and socks, we’ll now have to be on the lookout for this new sartorial and ideological interdict.

First to have been refused service because of this new rule was White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. At a small Virginia eatery, nestled—as we picture it now—at the corner of controversy and indecency, Sanders and her family gathered for an evening repast. Inside the “Red Hen’s” cramped yet cozy dining space, she and her group of seven settled in. They had, by that time, ordered and begun their first morsels and were likely to delve hungrily into the night’s discussions and hors d’oeurves.

Alarmed by the intrusion of such a repugnant patron (as, of course, the ever-respectful though perhaps, at times, not always completely veridical Ms. Sanders has proven at the White House podium to be), the staff attending her called upon their manager and then the Red Hen’s owner to decide on just what they should do with this disconcerting guest. Surely, they couldn’t dream of countenancing such a morally abhorrent presence in their homely little restaurant. To do so would be to spoil the very tables upon which their like-minded regulars flock to eat. To serve a paying customer with whom they disagree on political matters would be nauseating to the extreme. It would be nothing short of irreconcilable. It would be tantamount to liberal heresy, if not complete and utter Democratic apostasy. It simply wouldn’t do.

Arriving on the scene, then, and not a moment too soon, was the Red Hen’s owner. She proceeded to convene her tight-knit coop in the hope that they might collectively decide Sanders’ fate. By way of a plebiscite (the Red Hen is quite near Washington D.C., after all; what else would one expect of a Virginia establishment so close to that epitome of democracy—Capitol Hill?) the group decided against serving Sanders. I hazard to guess that in viewing the final count of such a vote, one would be hard-pressed to find even a single dissent. Sanders’ mere being there, so I’m sure the final tally exposed, would only sully the proud principles for which their humble eatery stood. And they, filled with their conceit, wouldn’t stand for it.

Thus, politely, Sanders was asked to leave. Having no recourse (although she did have time enough to finish her first course), Sanders agreed, dabbed her lips, and—preparing to leave—offered to pay her fare. No need. Her money was no good there, said the owner of that now and forevermore haughty Red Hen.

The interloper removed, and the crisis of an infringement of their conformity averted, one of the waitresses on staff that night posted and then quickly removed from Facebook a partial retelling of the affair. As never it is, said waitress’ attempt to remove the post wasn’t quick enough, and the media soon caught wind of what looked to be an incipient scandal. With sensitive noses incredibly finely tuned, they were right.

Caught in the midst of this exploding controversy, Sanders handled the fall-out with every grace. She expounded on Twitter the events of the evening, only after having been exposed by the loose-lipped waitress. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have known a thing about all this. Decorously, Sanders explained that she’d been asked to leave because of her professional association with the president. Politely, though I do imagine somewhat despondently, she acquiesced.

Yet Sanders wasn’t the only Trump administration employee to be harangued when dining out. Kristjen Nielsen and Stephen Miller, the Director of Homeland Security and Senior Advisor to the president, respectively, were harassed whilst enjoying their dinners in D.C. Apparently, too conspicuously were they to be found at popular Mexican-American restaurants in the town. With the southern border in crisis, perhaps some other ethnicity’s cuisine might’ve been more palatable for the passers-by whose attention they caught, but even in that case (had the optics been improved) the treatment of the two might not have been much better.

In both cases, the people who noticed Nielsen and Miller dining in their respective restaurants jumped at their chance to reprove them and make a scene. They tossed upon Nielsen and Miller all sorts of opprobrium without any sense of civility, decency, nor regard. The browbeating was so intense, in fact, that Nielsen was forced prematurely to leave her meal. If harassing a private citizen (because of her political opinion) at a public venue to the extent that she’s forced to up and leave doesn’t quite sound like something out of the training manual of the Gestapo or the GPU, I’m not sure what else does. Yet even that concession, that of her leaving because of their bullying and coarseness, couldn’t satiate their zeal.

Protestors, ruffians, louts—call them what you, they proceeded for a second helping at a private residence where Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell and his wife Elaine Chao where about to depart. Chao is the largely unseen Secretary of Transportation in the Trump administration; McConnell the painfully torpid first-in-command in the Senate. The hecklers, young men who numbered three, pressed her and her husband about this administration’s immigration policy. They demanded how, in light of the current circumstances at the southern border, they find it at all possible to sleep at night. Commendably, Chao stared the trio down and stood up for her and her husband. That said, you’ll likely hear no homage from the feminists to the intrepidity she showed in the face of, dare I say it, this blatant display of toxic masculinity.

Oh no. All of that is a second thought—a mere trifle. All that matters is this pestilence of “righteous indignation” that’s of late penetrated our discourse and acidified our thought. Yet, the “righteous indignation” is just that. It’s righteous, however seemingly egregious, and no thoughtful, decent person would dare look at it askance. It’s sanctioned from on high, from Congresswoman Maxine Waters, to liberal celebrities. It’s the type of righteousness that confers a license to do as you please. Be it to interrupt a meal, to refuse to serve a supper, to confront at a gas station, to pester in a park, to molest in a public place, or to excoriate on the street—every incivility is allowed, every barbarity encouraged.

Alas, it’s with great sadness that summer sheds its former slogan and adopts this new one. “No shoes and no shirt” no longer is enough. Whatever political identity you wear invites your persecution. That which is written on your sleeve condemns you like a leper. No longer is this the season of levity and peace—peace of mind, of spirit, of safety, nor of person. So long as you don’t agree, I have no regard for you, nor you for me. Sanders, Nielsen, Miller, and Chao have learned this illiberal and frankly, disheartening lesson in the hardest way. That said, it’s not a lesson to which they ought to become inured. Summer, after all, has a particular and especial place in the hearts and souls of all Americans. It’s the season that—for almost a quarter of a century and I do hope, a quarter of a century more—we celebrate our anniversary of liberty. A liberty at which and for which, so long as it’s existed, every nation has looked and pined. We’d do well to remember this as we begin adding more and more political prohibitions to our signs.

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