I once thought the idea of overzealous leftists was just a hypocritical conservative talking point. No more. The animosity was directed at a person and restaurant in my own backyard (Slates owner defending herself after social media post calls her ‘Nazi sympathizer’,” Aug. 8).Full disclosure: I grew up at Slates. My mom has worked there since I was young. I know owner Wendy Larson relatively well. Of course I’m not a completely unbiased observer of this situation — but unlike the hundreds of people who perpetuated libelous claims about her, I actually know first hand that Wendy doesn’t remotely resemble a bigot.

Wendy has hired a diverse community for 40 years. She once fed a vandal who egged her restaurant shouting homophobic slurs rather than call the cops, proving her methods against hate doesn’t jive with forceful authoritarianism. She is the furthest thing from a “Nazi sympathizer,” yet that is what an absurd Facebook post declared within the antifa-curious group ironically called “Maine For Everyone.”

This group removed posts from people with dissenting, more comprehensive and nuanced takes on Wendy. Under this false pretense this despicable scenario ignited. The only reason this story is newsworthy is to realize a group of authoritarian know-nothings can quickly mobilize on social media and attempt to assassinate the character of an undeserving person.

Furthermore, the alarming fact this happened to a known progressive person goes to show that becoming a victim of cancel culture can happen to anybody. Slates shut its Facebook page down after over 100 people shared the libelous post. Though she didn’t need to, Wendy (who’s not on Facebook) shared her words on Slate’s Facebook page, which were since deleted, presumably because authoritative hacks kept irrationally pressing their thoughtless demands: “I have been a proponent of equal rights in Hallowell for 40 years. Slates does not tolerate hate, never has and never will. We have been a haven for diversity. I am opposed to any belief diminishing one person’s value over another. I am a firm believer in the first amendment.”

The belligerent mob remained upset, apparently because Wendy didn’t join their hypocritical calls to “ban white supremacists,” claiming her statement wasn’t satisfactory, clearly considering themselves, for some reason, supreme arbiters of means to extinguish hate. Forceful measures like banishment or violence are not what convinced former white nationalist Derek Black to denounce the movement, as told in the spellbinding book “Rising From Hatred” by Eli Saslow.

The rhetoric is dangerous. What does banning people from restaurants based on ideology even look like? It would be impossible to determine ideology upon a patron’s entrance, unless an intrusive questionnaire be taken before dining.

The group further demanded that any employee engaged in activism be able to pass the burden onto their employer, who they said should unconditionally support them no matter what. Imagine if the activist had been a Trump supporter and demanded their employer ban liberals. Everyone would be rightfully outraged.

All the while, anyone who knows Wendy’s brand of progressivism and inclusion realizes these demands are not part of her methods in spreading goodness in the world. Words cannot fully describe the absurdity of this situation.

In columns written here, I’ve warned of a rightward drift occurring in America. Sadly, people who generally join me in criticizing political elites, particularly our dictator-curious president, have actually helped move the dial further rightward this week, demanding force be the sole means in battling hate. Astonishingly, they and white supremacists groups have both harassed the same restaurant. The world they seek is the same they are supposedly against. They are a gift to blowhards like Ben Shapiro, to white supremacy groups (who are likely delighted by the cowardly redirection), and to opportunistic politicians like Trump.

It is not only heartbreaking because a person I know to be accepting and inclusive was smeared, but because it is further indication of the rightward drift and the rise of ignorance. This transcends state politics or local gossip — it’s bigger than that.

If simplistic rhetoric and forceful tactics prevail on the left, particularly against itself — if a progressive and loving human being is shoved to the ranks of “Nazi sympathizer” alongside Trump — we are in serious, perhaps fatal, trouble.

Once the reactionaries realize and admit the mistake they made in partaking in this misplaced authoritative mob, I will gladly join their cause in a peaceful progressiveness.

But the foolish crusade to demand an unwilling restaurant owner essentially adapt antifa-lite methods that she clearly doesn’t agree with, all for an employee who endorsed her mother’s defamation of character on social media, must first end.

You couldn’t write fiction more absurd. They have memorably, pathetically missed the mark by attacking Slates under this ignorant, wildly false pretense. Though many ache for Slates, we can only hope this other side of hate doesn’t spread among the left.

Sam Shain of Hallowell is a musician and an English teacher.

 

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