An incident happened last week in town that went viral. As you probably read in the Weekly, at Starbuck’s on California Avenue in Palo Alto, resident Rebecca Parker Mankey verbally assaulted a 74-year-old man drinking his coffee. He was wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat, which set her off and she started screaming at him. Calling him a "hater of brown people," Mankey addressed Starbucks customers and employees to join her in her effort. She said she left the store but soon returned and continued to yell at him. She followed him out of the store to the parking lot, where she continued to berate and swear at him. She called the man "Nazi scum" and afterward posted pictures of him on social media.
Certainly bad behavior (outrageous is a better word) on her part, to say the least. And because of the hat and the Trump MAGA logo, she quickly concluded he was a bad guy politically and apparently felt entitled to berate him. It is a raw, sordid, example of the partisan divide that has enveloped our country.
We have drawn the red-blue lines and refuse to step over them. I had a discussion recently with a group of Democrats about Trump and there was disapproval about everything the president is doing. So I suggested we talk about some of the positive things Trump has done – and asked them to name a few. Silence in the room. “Nothing,” one person said. “I can’t think of anything,” another replied. “Not one”? Not one.
“What about our low unemployment rate or our healthy economy? I asked. “That started when the Dems were in power, so Trump can’t claim he did it all,” several said.
A couple of days later I quizzed some Republican friends asking if they still support Trump, as strongly as they once did. “Well, I feel uncomfortable about his personality, but he’s done great things and is a really good president,” was the common response. “But what about his lies, his narcissism and his seeming disdain about our allies, and his continuing praise of Putin?” I asked. That didn’t matter, they responded. “He’s a strong leader and it’s time our allies stopped taking advantage of the U.S. and the economy is thriving and he is doing great and I support him,” was the collective (paraphrased) answer.
No right vs. wrong value system. Only “them” vs. “us.” No subtleties. Just a big black paint smear against “them”—on both sides of the red-blue line.
All these conversations happened in Palo Alto.
This tenacity toward zealously defending one’s points of view is endangering our country. It’s part of that “Don’t bother me with the facts, I know what I believe” line of reasoning that is percolating through the country.
And some of these rigid attitudes have permeated Congress. Certainly the Tea Partiers were unrelenting at times, and now the Democrats are having trouble in their ranks. There is a general consensus for Dems that their goal for 2020 is to get Trump out of office. Period. THE Priority. But the younger group of newly elected representatives, e.g., Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (“AOC”), D-NY, and her supporters, are pushing their Green New Deal, insisting on government health care for all, and a variety of brand new programs, such as a guaranteed income for everyone. Speaker Nancy Pelosi wants a less abrupt change of policy so that Democrats can come together by 2020. So far the newbie Congressional members ‘strident voices are becoming louder every day.
So how do we listen to each other and not attack “the other”? How so we start to become a less divided country, hear, and better understand each other, work together and compromise on issues facing our country? That’s what Palo Alto is all about and that is what our country is all about.