On July 4, at a Starbucks in Tempe, Arizona, six police officers were asked to either move out of a customer’s line of sight or leave the establishment because they were making a patron uncomfortable — for being police.
As a progressive-minded American who believes certain (unjust) laws are meant to be broken and who strongly opposes any manner of police abuse or overreach, I am not particularly comfortable around police myself (although, admittedly, I am white and tend to get the benefit of the doubt during confrontations). However, I am equally uncomfortable with an uncanny overreaction to what amounted to uniformed police officers having a cup of coffee, which they paid for, at a public location.
I also scoff at the idea of a #boycottstarbucks (hashtag) for what amounted to the actions of one misguided barista. Twitter is akin to a lightning strike in an otherwise quiet, flame-free forest. It doesn’t seem to matter what the issue is anymore or whether it stirs up the Right or the Left. There should be a rule that states: No one, in the name of support or solidarity, should be allowed to be more outraged than the victim of the mistreatment/offense/injustice. At no point did the Tempe Police Department or the officers who were asked to move-it-or-leave-it call for a boycott, so their so-called supporters are nothing more than digital grandstanders.
It’s to the credit of the involved parties that they did not join in the overreaction. Apologies were made and accepted. Increased understanding should always be the first objective in situations of low-level conflict. After all, mistakes will inevitably be made in a pluralistic society that suffers from a strong case of oversensitivity. We’re afraid of everything except our own shadows, which we seem to worship. We should instead be happy that our many cleavages exist in a relative state of equilibrium. It’s a minor miracle that we haven’t descended into civil war post-November 8, 2016. Yet.
I’m not sure why we can’t continue to build a nation that includes lingering lawmen, craven customers, crafty corporate owners, and even tumultuous tweeters. There’s room for all of us — along with the scores of ill-treated immigrants about whom we should be far more concerned than those who can easily defend themselves.
Matt Johnson, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is co-author of “Trumpism.”