[guest post by Dana]
It seems to me, if you can’t ignore a hat whose wearer is quietly minding his own business, maybe you’re the problem and not the hat nor the person wearing it.
T.J. Helmstetter headed to Hill Country, a Penn Quarter restaurant that has been one of his favorite stops. In a text-message interview Friday, Helmstetter said that he, his partner and three other people found the place packed when they arrived.
“We had just walked in when I saw the guy sitting by the bar with the MAGA hat,” Helmstetter wrote. “I said, ‘Hey, are you from D. C.?’ ”
The man said no, and Helmstetter said he responded, “We don’t tolerate racism in this city.” The comment, according to Helmstetter, prompted the MAGA cap wearer’s companion to get up and jab her fingers into his chest. “I’m sure I said more things then, don’t remember what,” Helmstetter texted.
Did he curse at the woman?
“I’m from New Jersey, I’m sure I did. I might have said get your f—ing hands off of me or something like that,” he texted.
That’s when a Hill Country manager told Helmstetter, but not the target of his ire, to leave. On Twitter, Helmstetter said that Hill Country “chose to protect the Nazi’s right but not mine” to dine at the restaurant. Helmstetter then walked outside and called a Hill Country manager, who supported his staff’s decision to boot him.
[Ed. Notice how The Washington Post framed this: That’s when a Hill Country manager told Helmstetter, but not the target of his ire, to leave.]
Management responded to the kerfuffle in an email to the Washington Post:
Last night our management team overheard a very loud verbal altercation in our bar area. When two of our managers approached the area, they observed one of our guests being hostile towards another group of guests. Our team was simply trying to prevent a physical altercation as they are trained to do and asked the guest yelling at the group to leave the restaurant immediately. There was nothing more to it from our team’s perspective and the incident was handled appropriately to ensure guest safety.
It’s interesting to see the Washington Post’s active agreement to “otherize” MAGA-hat- wearers by repeating Helmstetter’s description. And in this case, they are otherizing the victim:
Helmstetter texted that he felt compelled to confront the MAGA-hat-wearing diner. He added that “progressives and any concerned person who thinks that we shouldn’t cage brown children in American concentration camps should respond vociferously to these people at every opportunity.”
But “these people” often respond vociferously. Helmstetter’s Twitter feed and private message inbox were flooded with comments, much of it questioning his manhood and recommending that he get therapy. Some even suggested that he was lucky to come out alive after confronting a Trump supporter in a barbecue joint.
So online idiots tweeting stupid stuff are “these people” but not the individual who aggressively harassed a customer who was minding his own business? Geez, just imagine what would’ve happened if Helmstetter thought he caught a glimpse of a smirk…
Ben Smith says what needs to be said:
I live downtown only a few blocks from the White House. Every day I see hundreds of tourists walking through my area.
Yes, they can be annoying. The walk on the wrong side. Stop randomly to take pics, and don’t know how the metro works.
However, they bring a lot of money and much needed revenue to the city.
A few days ago, I sat down to grab a quick bite before heading to a housewarming party. There was an extremely kind family of 4 sitting near me.
They were extremely nice to me when I asked them to hand me something down the counter. Two boys and their parents.
When they left the restaurant, they all put back on their MAGA hats and began walking towards the White House, and for some reason, I began to worry about them. There was no reason to, but I did.
I had heard them talking joyfully about being in our nation’s capital and what it meant to them. They were excited.
But for some reason, when they walked out and put on their MAGA hats, I had a lump in my throat as I feared that someone might say something. I then quickly brushed it away.
Now that this Hill Country incident has happened I would like to make one thing clear to my fellow DC residents. Yes, we live here. No none of us agree on everything, but this isn’t our city.
This city belongs to everyone in the United States. This is the transient city. It belongs to the nation.
So yes, you may disagree with our visitors, but they have just as much of a right to be here as you.
So treat with the same respect that you know that they would treat you.
The people visiting are a vital source of both economic stability of the city as well add to the uniqueness and diversity.
I don’t want to be afraid for these wonderful kind people who, some are doing a once-in-a lifetime visit to come back from our amazing city feeling like they don’t belong in the best symbol of freedom in the world.
They shouldn’t have to fear being here due to politics. And I am ashamed of my fellow city-dwellers.
How sad that this needs to be said. How sad that this is where we’ve landed. Blame Trump all you want for that which he is blameworthy. And there’s plenty there with which to work. But, honestly, the choice to react to a dumb hat (and its wearer) lies wholly with the individual. And as Smith’s comments eloquently reminds us, not everyone who wears a MAGA hat is a monster. Kind and decent Americans wear them. Symbols aren’t always representative of what you and your political views demand they be.
(Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.)