Let’s start with this.
DENVER – A Mexican restaurant in the Highlands neighborhood declined a Mitt Romney campaign stop.
Now the owners of Rosa Linda’s Mexican Café are getting death threats, nasty threatening phone calls, and insulting e-mails criticizing their choice.
“I don’t want people to be angry at me,” Rosa Linda Aguirre, the owner of the neighborhood staple, said. “I feel that this is really going out of proportion. I’m sorry if I offended somebody or everybody. I did not mean to do that.”
When the couple was approached by the Romney campaign in August, asking to be a campaign stop for the Republican candidate, they declined.
“We don’t want to be a tool. We don’t want to be anything more than a place of gathering and a home,” Oscar Aguirre, Rosa Linda’s son and a restaurant employee, said.
“People are saying they want to see us out of business. I’m like, we didn’t do anything,” he said. “We just didn’t want to be a campaign stop. Mr. Romney, come and eat tomorrow. He’s welcome. President Obama is welcome; former President Bush is welcome; President Clinton, they’re welcome. It doesn’t matter. We’re a place of family and a place of community.”
Clearly, a course in remedial democracy is in order. So:
- You have the right to speak your mind.
- You have the right to vote for whomever you like.
- You have the right to actively campaign on behalf of whomever you like.
- You have the right not to vote at all.
- You have the right to tell people whom you’re voting for.
- You have the right NOT to speak your mind.
- You have the right NOT to tell people whom you’re for. (This is called “privacy.” It’s why they don’t allow people to look over your shoulder when you step into the voting booth.)
- And you certainly have the right not to position yourself or your business within the context of a political campaign.
Not only that, but:
- You have the right to patronize whatever businesses you like.
- You have the right to patronize businesses for political reasons if you so choose. Even if they’re stupid ones.
- You have the right to boycott businesses for any reason you like, including your unwillingness to support interests that support political or social causes to which you object.
- You do not have the right to harass or threaten those with whom you disagree. (That’s called “criminal behavior,” and if they catch you, you can go to jail.)
I don’t know anything about the Aguirre family’s politics. I mean, they’re Mexican-born, and they’re in Denver, which suggests they might be Democrats. But they’re Mormon, which means they might well support Mr. Romney, also a Mormon. I don’t know and I don’t care. I agree with them completely. If Romney wants to stop by for a burrito, great. Same for Mr. Obama. And Mr. Bush. And Mr. Clinton, and Mr. Carter, and Mr. Bush the Elder, and whoever else likes Mexican food. But there is no obligation whatsoever, on the part of Rosa Linda’s or any other person or business, to assume the role of campaign prop, regardless of whom they may be voting for.
We’re a country with too many faux-patriots for our own good. People who profess to love freedom and democracy and liberty and who sing at the top of their lungs every time somebody sets off some fireworks and cues up the Lee Greenwood, but who frankly wouldn’t know the basic tenets of democracy if Thomas Jefferson crawled out of the grave, zombie-shambled toward them and sucked out what little brains they have. The behavior of those issuing all these threats – these anonymous threats – that isn’t the behavior of a patriot, it’s the behavior of a coward and it’s the precursor to brownshirt thuggery. It is, in every meaningful sense imaginable, the opposite of what democracy is about.
People like this are big on their rights. And they love talking about how they Support Our Troops® (which mainly involves putting a little ribbon magnet that was made in China on their cars) and how much they revere all the brave men and women who paid the ultimate price, giving their lives to defend our freedoms.
I know, this is America. Which means:
- You have the right to be ignorant.
- You have the right to advertise your ignorance to everyone you meet.
Still, it’s a shame these folks don’t treasure the sacrifices of our fallen heroes enough to exercise their responsibility to know how freedom really works, isn’t it?
I’ll be heading down to Rosa Linda’s for dinner this evening with a couple of friends. If you’re in the Denver area, you’re invited to join me in a nonpartisan show of support for a local, independent, family-owned business that got caught in the crossfire because they chose not to become pawns in a cynical political game.
We’ll be there around six. If you don’t know me, I’ll be the tall, bald guy who understands how democracy works.
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