ECLECTIC RANT: The Case for Public Incivility

Ralph E. Stone
Sunday July 01, 2018 - 04:09:00 PM

On June 20, 2018, Homeland Security Secretary Kirsjen Nielson was heckled about the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance immigration policy by about a dozen hecklers at the MXDC Cocina Mexicana in Washington, D.C. As she entered the restaurant, they shouted, “If kids don’t eat in peace, you don’t eat in peace.” While she was eating, they heckled, "You’re eating a Mexican dinner as you’re deporting tens of thousands of people separated from their parents," and chanted "No borders, no walls, sanctuary for all.” Nielson left the restaurant shortly thereafter. 

On June 25, 2018, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders was asked to leave the Red Hen restaurant in Lexington, Virginia because for, as co-owner Stephanie Wilkinson, said, "Sanders worked in the service of an 'inhumane and unethical' administration. That she publicly defended the president’s cruelest policies, and that could not stand.”  

Some have called these protests against Nielson and Sanders “uncivil.” I disagree.  

“Civility” in public life is too often a mealy-mouthed word that has no clear meaning beyond social delicacy and the importance of not speaking up too aggressively. Protests, mean words, heckling, civil disobedience, boycotts, public shunning are entirely legitimate tools of political action and civic action. In these instances, the protests were legitimate protests and resistance to Trump and his minions who serve him too loyally. How can you be civil to a president whose modus operandi is incivility, who views civility in opponents as weakness and a reason to viciously attack.  

I expect more such protests.