Updated: Aug 10, 2020
When, on Father's Day weekend, I read the story about children being separated from their parents at American borders and detained in conditions I never expected to hear about in North America, my heart broke. Then I (mis)read a Facebook post by a missionary I know which seemed to attempt to justify the American position, and I, quite viscerally, became enraged by what I saw as yet another Christian on the wrong side of current political events. I engaged him in an extremely polite and rational discourse on Facebook, and learned I had misunderstood his post. Thank you, that! But in the meantime, I had communicated my disgust to my sister. Her response to me was, What are you doing about it other than getting angry and posting on Facebook? Which, quite frankly, gave me a new target for my fury.
Actually, as I told my mother, I had to give her the benefit of the doubt and assume she was using the royal you on this one, and was not specifically referring to me, personally. I have to. Her question, however, has been revolving around the back of my head ever since.
This morning I read another news story. In a Canadian restaurant located in Vancouver, BC's, Stanley Park, the floor manager of a restaurant was fired because he asked a customer wearing a Make America Great Again hat to remove his cap, and when the customer refused, the manager told him the restaurant would not serve him. The man left, but because the restaurant cites a "philosophy of tolerance," the restaurant subsequently fired the floor manager. He had worked there for 18 months. (See https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/vancouver-restaurant-trump-supporter-teahouse-1.4728720 )
The floor manager stands by his decision, the restaurant is standing by their decision, hat guy has not been reached for comment, but it seems likely he stands by his decision. And I made the mistake of reading the comments listed underneath the story, which are maybe not as vile as some recent political commentary, but still aren't a great way to start off a Canada Day long weekend. There was one comment, though, that caught my attention, which said, basically, wait, you have a President who is applying tariffs which may cost Canadian jobs and who mocks our Prime Minister (hey, man, we get to do that, 'cuz we are family, you ain't and you don't), and we are not supposed to find your hat -- which has come to signify a spectrum of political values which denigrates the values of our country-- offensive? We are not supposed to take a stand? That's BS. Her comment, paraphrased, not mine, but I do concur.
I spent multiple years working in the restaurant industry, both as a server and a floor supervisor -- a position I suspect would be identical to the one this man held. We were allowed to, and occasionally did, refuse service. This was never a policy done lightly -- the potential business repercussions should be obviously apparent -- but it is one I have seen. As a server, there have been occasions when I personally refused to serve a table. Generally, if I did so, it happened due to the obnoxious mannerisms of the customer. On the flip side of that, I have also served people who's values I do not endorse. The example which springs immediately to mind is the time I served a gathering of the Kelowna Warriors -- all wearing full gang regalia -- who had come to rent a private room in our restaurant. The younger girls did not feel comfortable serving them, so I took the table, joking that this was one group to whom I had better give good service. Later, I deliberately turned my mind away from thoughts of the kinds of revenues which had that day provided my tips.
Refusal of service within the restaurant industry, in my experience, happens more when a personal interaction goes wrong, rather than because of an ethical viewpoint being violated. Like Switzerland, we make our money through impartiality. Restaurants, in a sense, become a form of sanctuary. Still, it is not a sanctuary without rules, and if you refuse to comply with the requests of management, they have the right to boot you to the door. And make no mistake, they will do so. Reading this news article, I couldn't help but notice the obvious -- this manager didn't refuse service merely because of a patron's political views, but because a patron refused to comply with a request, on private property, that a (non-essential) garment deemed politically sensitive be removed. Kudos to this guy, who is doing more than getting angry and posting on Facebook to stand for his beliefs (and is paying the price for doing so).
Reading about this man's firing, the words hypocritical establishment and wrongful termination spring to mind. As does the thought, oh for the days when wearing a hat -- any hat -- to the table was just plain rude.
It's Canada Day Long Weekend. Generally speaking, this has not been a big deal in my life, but this year, I've come to realize that my country -- with all her idiosyncrasies -- is by far my preferred one on the continent where I reside. So, I'm wearing red, and eating maple syrup. Maybe later I will buy Canadian and drink a local beer (#OkanaganPaleAle). I spell neighbour with a 'u', and I'm drinking Tim Hortons coffee with my breakfast. Later, I will listen to Paul Brandt and Sean Mendez and Bryan Adams while driving kilometres to a Canadian grocery store, and on Sunday I will sing along to my country's national anthem, Oh Canada -- and I know all the words. Also, I'm writing this little blog post about a guy I've never met who is standing up for his beliefs in a park where I have been more times than I can count in the city which neighbours the town where I was a child.
My sister went to school to be a social worker; I went to school to be a writer. When she sees injustice in the world, she wades in, rolls up her sleeves, gets her hands dirty so others can live healthier lives. I write about it. When I see injustice in the world where I live, other than getting mad and posting to Facebook, this is what I do about it.
How about you?