My nominee for Patriot of the Week is Lauren Victor, in acknowledgement of her public demonstration of that most American of characteristics, the perverse determination to do what she wants to do, even in the face of intimidation, threats, peer pressure and political correctness.
Victor is an urban planner and photographer in Washington, D.C., who has marched a number of times in support of Black Lives Matter. She wasn’t marching on the day after Jacob Blake was shot in the back seven times by a Kenosha, Wis., police officer. Instead she went with a friend to dinner at a D.C. restaurant.
You’ve probably seen the video of the incident; it quickly went viral and has been viewed at least 12 million times.
As they dine at a sidewalk table, Victor and her friend are suddenly surrounded by a group — all white as far as I can see — that demands that she raise her fist in support of their cause, which appears to be BLM. Victor declines and is hectored and harangued by the increasingly animated mob; still she declines and eventually the crowd moves on.
Last week Victor wrote a thoughtful opinion piece for the Washington Post under the headline: “I was the woman surrounded by BLM protesters at a D.C. restaurant. Here’s why I didn’t raise my fist.”
Victor explains that when the crowd approached her, their cause wasn’t immediately apparent. When she asked them who they were and why they were marching, she got no answer. But, she admits, even if she had known who they were and their purpose, she would not have raised her fist.
She agrees with their goals but objects to their imperious demands, writing “...it is never okay to coerce people’s participation; that is just bullying.”
Victor ends on a hopeful and generous note. She confirms her support for BLM, as well as for an individual’s right to decline to participate in a protest. And she gives her harassers credit for “working together to sustain a movement to uphold Black people’s civil rights.”
Several commentators — New York Times columnist Bret Stephens and comedian Bill Maher, for example — note that episodes like this are just the sort of thing that will ensure President Donald Trump’s reelection.
Their point is well taken. Nobody wants to be scolded into conformity by a mob of overbearing, ultra-woke bullies. Still, we need to coin a word to describe the ironic double standard that we so often apply to the left and the right in such instances:
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is pilloried for failing to wear a mask on a trip to a beauty salon, while Trump rarely wears a mask and mocks those who do.
Trump can call our war dead “losers” and “suckers” and still get a pass from his supporters after taking a specious deferment to avoid military service during his own generation’s war.
Trump is free to make snide innuendos about Joe Biden’s problematic history of contact with females, as if the “Access Hollywood” tapes didn’t exist.
And most germane to the Lauren Victor episode is the self-righteous indignation directed by the political right at the misguided mob that descended on her while she was trying to eat. The right, quite correctly, finds that sort of coercive intimidation offensive. But, at the same time, they accept Trump’s heavy-handed efforts to suppress peaceful protests, as well as dignified and perfectly lawful displays of objections to the injustices of the status quo, such as kneeling during the national anthem.
Lauren Victor took the trouble to explain why she refused to be intimidated by a bullying crowd. But Americanism embodies the right to act as we choose, including resistance against coercive “patriotism,” without having to explain, at all. Trump’s blunt sense of patriotism lacks the subtlety to appreciate this; just ask Colin Kaepernick.
No imperious mob of woke liberals can compete with Trump’s capacity to intimidate and coerce. I said we need to coin a word to express this double standard. Come to think of it, we probably already have one: Hypocrisy.
John M. Crisp, an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service, lives in Georgetown, Texas, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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