July 2nd, 2018 12:00 PM
Rubi's carne asada taco/photo: David Hammond
Last Sunday, hot as it was, I went to Maxwell Street Market to eat tacos at Rubi's and Manolo's. The lady at Manolo's confirmed that the same family owns both places, but then she shook her head and said, "But we are very different," and she held her two hands together and then rapidly separated them to indicate a family split.
As I sat eating tacos at the long tables, I wondered what Rubi's or Manolo's would do if one of the well-recognized Trump officials (like Stephen Miller, Kirstjen Nielsen or Sarah Sanders) were to show up for some tacos. I know that may sound unduly hypothetical, but both Nielsen and Miller were recently driven from Mexican restaurants when people recognized them. Ironically, both Miller and Kirstjen like Mexican food …or maybe they were cynically trolling Mexican places to encourage harassment.
My guess is that Maxwell Street Market vendors, if they recognized any of these people, would not care much one way or the other. If other diners recognized any of these people, however, that could be another story.
Frank Bruni, former "New York Times" food critic, wrote last week that he disagreed with California Congresswoman Maxine Waters' belief that we should "heckle and harass" Trump Administration officials whenever possible.
"…what matters now isn't what's viscerally satisfying and morally just. What matters is the absolute best strategy. What matters is victory. And behavior that could imperil that victory can't be encouraged on the grounds that it's reciprocal and feels good."
Eater.com, a national source for food industry news, recently featured a piece by Amy McCarthy entitled "Trump Officials Don't Deserve Hospitality" in which she argued:
"…restaurant owners who feel strongly about this administration's policies should be free to make a statement in support of their employees, their patrons, and basic human decency by saying, 'No, we will not serve you.'"
With those comments in mind, as of today (my mind might change tomorrow), I can't see anything wrong with restaurant owners denying service to those who support a regime that appears to them to be unethical and cruel. However, if Miller, Nielsen or Sanders showed up at a Maxwell Street taco stand, I wouldn't harass them, even though I judge them to be the biggest danger to this American life since the Civil War.
I understand the anger at these people, though I certainly don't feel it as much as those in the Hispanic community who have seen their friends and relatives deported, families separated, and toddlers held in detention. This is happening not just at the border, but as the "Chicago Tribune" reported last Sunday, in the heartland of our country.
I believe Miller et al. to be truly awful people, but I can't bring myself to be a part of the movement to hound them from the table, a place where people come together. I'm not yet comfortable with that level of incivility. I do, however, understand and support people who choose to exercise their First Amendment freedoms and make their feelings and opinions known by whatever legal means are available to them. We're talking here, of course, about angry language. Violence or physical attacks against those we disagree with is unacceptable, even if the current president, from the podium, encourages his followers to punch out political opponents in the audience. That, of course, is crazy. Let's not all be crazy.