“We Don’t Serve Their Kind?” or “The Advanced Trait of Mercy?”

Few fans of science fiction do not remember the moment in Star Wars when Luke Skywalker enters the cantina at Mos Eisley, accompanied by C3PO and R2D2 and is told “We don’t serve their kind.” Luke is confused, and the barman explains that ‘droids are not wanted in his establishment. So the ‘droids glumly go to wait outside while Luke and Obi Wan meet Han Solo.

Nothing else happens related to this incident. The hateful behavior of the barman is not addressed. We’re left to assume, I suppose, that someone is always at the bottom rung of the social ladder, and such people are always discriminated against. In the Star Wars universe, those disenfranchised people are ‘droids. The moment stands that hate is a fact of life.

For anyone who’s ever been told that they weren’t welcome because of something recognizable about them, over which they may or may not have any control, it’s a painful moment. It twinges me because I dealt with age discrimination practiced by businesses when I was younger—rules put in place because business owners assumed all children were thieves. It left me with a profound sense of injustice. How much more profound a sense of injustice must have been felt, I wonder, by African Americans who were told they couldn’t eat in a restaurant, had to sit in the back of the bus, or couldn’t come to the same school as their white neighbors? Similar discriminatory practices still happen worldwide—the most recent non-U.S. example I can think of is the prevalence of “Poles need not apply” notices that accompanied help wanted signs in Great Britain during the time of Brexit.

It’s a shame Star Wars didn’t really address this behavior. It’s one of the most pernicious practices of humanity—excluding people you don’t know because you recognize them as belonging to a group you don’t align with.

I was taught that discrimination was wrong. Racism. Prejudice. You name it. If it involved saying, “Everyone in that group is a bad person,” it was sloppy thinking, and immoral. I was further taught that, really, you should love your enemies. Jesus said so in the Gospel of Matthew. He also said, essentially, that it isn’t easy to love your enemies, but that’s just the point. If it were easy, everyone would do it. If you want to be a good and moral person, and child of God, you need to do something to rise above the herd. (Which means, I guess, that Jesus recognized there was a herd. Point to be discussed later, I think.) I was also taught that it’s ungracious to treat your enemies with hostility in a social situation. That’s a Southern thing.

I would go so far as to say that rejecting an individual based on his or her group membership is immoral. It’s also plain stupid. What kind of person refuses business simply because of skin color or sexual orientation? A person who doesn’t want to stay in business. An idiot.

It’s wrong to refuse to serve someone based on the group they belong to. It’s bad for your business and your reputation. It hurts feelings. It does no good whatsoever.

Sadly, you have the right to be an idiot. You have the right to do stupid and self-destructive things. You have the right to ask people to leave your property. You have the right to say, “I will not work for this person,” because, without that right, you’re a slave. Conversely, no one has the right to enter your property if you don’t want them there, and no one has a right to do business with you if you are a private businessperson.

Some of you will disagree with that last, but I hold firm on it. The fact that the rights I believe in allow people to legally hurt the feelings of others, and to hurt their own reputations is a sad truth, but it’s still a truth. I just take no pleasure in the fact that some (stupid) people use their rights to hurt others.

So I take no pleasure in the fact that Sarah Huckabee Sanders and her family were thrown out of the Red Hen restaurant in Lexington, VA. I don’t like Mrs. Sanders’s boss. I don’t like a lot of the things she says. I absolutely defend the right of a private property owner to ask someone to leave his restaurant.

But I also think the restaurant owner behaved in an ungracious, uncivil and immoral manner. I would not support his business if I had the opportunity to do so.

Many of my friends disagree. Many of the same friends who would tell me that property rights should be limited so that people can’t commit racial and sexual orientation are absolutely delighted by this man’s act. Even though it’s an act they would deny him the right to engage in. They think it’s wonderful that members of the Trump administration were treated inhospitably. They want to patronize this restaurant now.

But I’m still in the same place I was in before. This is legal behavior, but it’s immoral behavior. And why would I want to encourage it?

If I say it’s okay to throw one group out of a restaurant because they support Trump, am I not also saying it’s okay to throw a group out for supporting Clinton? Or Bernie Sanders? Or Jill Stein or Gary Johnson? If I encourage political discrimination, am I not setting a precedent which might later be used to discriminate against me or someone I love?

“Those who live by the sword shall die by the sword,” or, as I like to say at work, “If you lay a stick on the table, you should expect to be the first one who gets whacked with it.”

If we approve the mistreatment of other people—any other people—we are saying that mistreating people is okay. And it’s not. It may be legal, but it’s not moral.

“Love your enemies” wasn’t only taught to me in Sunday School. It was taught to me by Captain James T. Kirk, when he was spirited off to an unknown world to fight to the death with an extraterrestrial called a Gorn. The Gorn was captain of a ship that had raided an Earth outpost, slaughtered an undetermined number of men, women and children, including friends of Kirk’s and members of his crew. The Gorn Captain made it clear he intended to kill Kirk. The Gorn’s idea of mercy was to make it a quick kill. But Kirk won the battle, and, crouching over his enemy with a handmade knife poised to strike, announced, “No. No, I won’t kill you. Maybe you thought you were protecting yourself when you attacked the outpost.”

The Metron, an advanced being who had engineered the battle to decide which race was worthy of continued existence, congratulated Kirk on displaying “the advanced quality of mercy.” He might not have been ready to buy his enemy chocolates and flowers, but he was able to see his enemy’s point of view, and to show him compassion—even though he had committed unspeakable acts which had hurt Kirk.

No doubt it was in Kirk’s head that, if the strong always kill the weak, we’re all in trouble. There’s always someone stronger. And Kirk did not want to live in that kind of universe. He was willing to let the Gorn live and go free, even though he didn’t share Kirk’s high-minded principles.

That’s loving your enemy. That’s overcoming fear. That’s how healing begins.

And had the Metrons forced Kirk and the Gorn to love each other? Would that have worked? Perhaps, but then they wouldn’t be free beings any longer. Free beings have to make mistakes—commit sins—in order to learn lessons like “love your enemies.”

You can’t force it. You can’t stamp out evil. All you can do is be better than it is. And using its methods is not being better. It’s just being part of the problem.

 

 

 

6 thoughts on ““We Don’t Serve Their Kind?” or “The Advanced Trait of Mercy?”

  1. My site’s host had a server crash, and about 48 hours of data was lost, including some comments on this post. Fortunately, my phone’s WordPress app somehow saved them. With apologies to those who posted, I’ll share their comments here.

    Beatrice said:

    Good points! I do understand the temptation to say to a group of people who believe it is alright to be rude like this, “How does it feel when you are the one subjected to the rudeness?” It is tempting. But in most cases it doesn’t fuel contemplation, it simply fuels a war. I can already hear the rejoinder “we support the right to ‘exercise religious freedom’ by refusing service, but you were just being rude and mean out of spite.” It will feel good to many on the left, and infuriate many on the right, but it will not lead to a lesson being learned, I don’t think.

  2. Recreated comment. Nobilis Reed said:

    I would like to repeat here, an idea for your consideration:

    THE MEANS BY WHICH GAY PEOPLE, SIMPLY BY EXISTING, HURT EVANGELICALS

    A loving, long-standing gay relationship, especially one that enjoys the social and political institution of marriage, by its very nature erodes the idea that in a heterosexual relationship, “the man” must enjoy non-negotiated, unquestioned primacy.

    This is why evangelicals who have started to wake up to the idea that gay people aren’t evil and in fact might actually be true human beings, sometimes ask gay people who “the man” in the relationship is, because their worldview still requires that there be someone who has unquestioned primacy.

    But since very nearly all gay relationships don’t have a singular “man” to have non-negotiated, unquestioned primacy, their existence is a constant source of cognitive dissonance to anyone who is part of the hierarchical system where all relationships must have hierarchy, a winner and a loser, a powerful and a powerless, a greater and a lesser, a master and a servant.

    Cognitive dissonance causes psychic pain, and pain is harm.

    HERE IS THE RELEVANCE TO THIS DISCUSSION:

    When there is a choice between doing harm to an oppressor, and doing harm to the oppressed, I will always choose to do harm to the oppressor.

    That’s why there’s a distinct difference between throwing someone out of your place of business because of their religion, race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation, and throwing someone out of their place of business because they use their position of power to cause harm to refugees and children.

    The fact that people do not understand this distinction, and insist that their own cognitive dissonance is a more important harm to ameliorate than the life and health of another human being, is why we have civil rights laws.

    • Recreated Comment. Christian Said:

      However, in this situation with Susan Huckabee Sanders she is the oppressed. Just like the gay couple at the bakery. They were denied service based on an aspect of themselves that the owner of the establishment saw as reason not to serve them. Just because you don’t like her doesn’t mean she isn’t in the same pickle this gay couple was in and should be afforded the same response.

      If you want to talk about the situation, let’s do that. But refusing to isolate the situation from Sanders’ past alienates her and anyone who actually supports a business’ right to serve or not serve whomever they please.

      Your discussion on evangelicals seems like a non-sequitur from the originial post and your second part. Yes, people who are set in their understandings and practices of the relationship between men and women will be offended or at least confused by their existence. What does that have to do with this issue? Legally how are gay people opressed today? I’m not saying they aren’t. I’d just like to know how you think this relates to the argument whatsoever.

      You put religion next to race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation. I’d agree. But it seems strange to start a post supporting your “punch up, don’t punch down” mantra with a rant discussing the cognitive dissonance of the people of a religion feels odd. Not wrong, just strange. I’d really like to know what those paragraphs were trying to say.

      If pain is harm and they, the Evangelicals, are causing this pain to themselves via the slow acceptance of the existence of a people who do not align with their view of the institution of marriage, how does that involve you? The harm is already in action, according to you, so rather you take the position that you are, through inaction, harming these people? See I just cannot find the link between these two blurbs.

      Just a reminder: Just because you don’t like someone doesn’t mean they don’t still have the same rights that are afforded to you. No matter their perceived oppression ranking.

    • I think the most pressing question that grows for me out of your comment concerns your statement about a choice between harming the oppressed or the oppressor. isn’t there a choice not to harm anyone? Especially since privilege theory suggests that discrimination is systemic, not intentional. So why would I want to harm people who are unaware of how their actions and attitudes hurt others? Wouldn’t I rather educate them? And I find rudeness and embarrassment are not good educational tactics, even though several of my teachers used them when I was young.

      Other than that, I don’t see a lot of connection between your two points. Is the connection that both discuss an imbalance of power?

      The definition of marriage as being an master-servant relationship is one I’ve heard a few people advance; but I was raised among evangelicals, and none of the marriages I know worked that way. Frankly, I think they way in which puritans think they are “harmed” by gay marriage is that it means some people get to commit “sins” under the blessings of the law. And that grates on them. What they don’t get is that A) it’s not the law’s job to enforce their morality–or anyone’s and B) their own religion says it’s not their place to judge fellow sinners.

      BTW, buzzwords task me, so I’ll define cognitive dissonance. It’s “The state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially as relating to behavioral decisions and attitude change.” (OED) And, no, I don’t think it can be applied to my argument.

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