By Ronald Trowbridge
Prejudice–that is, myopic prejudging–is often more the rule than exception in politics. G. K. Chesterton wisely observed that something can be so big that many do not see it—or only half see it. They thus judge partially and unfairly. I cite three recent examples.
One, a restaurant owner in San Mateo, California recently blasted out online that he would not serve any customer who wears a MAGA (Make America Great Again) hat. He presumed that the hat wearer was racist. But put simply, he couldn’t know that. So he prejudged—that’s what the word “prejudice” means.
An owner of a private enterprise has the constitutional right to be prejudicial, political, and even ignorant of facts. The late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia put it best: “If you stop speech that hurts peoples’ feelings, the First Amendment will become a dead letter.” Scalia defended the burning of the flag as an expression of protest protected by the First Amendment. That same amendment also protects so-called “hate speech” or so-declared “racist speech.” Many college campuses these days are loosely and without definition tossing around the declaration of hate or racist speech.
If the restaurant owner in California wants to write a prejudicial, political statement, he is free to hurt some peoples’ feelings. Those people can simply not patronize his restaurant. The owner found this out the hard way, and later apologized, rescinding his prohibition.
Two, the case of football quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling during the National Anthem and the raising of the American flag illustrates the same myopic prejudging, where critics see only half of the case. One side sees Kaepernick’s kneeling as a protest against endemic racism in America. The other side sees the kneeling as disrespect for all Americans who served and died in defense of America and freedom. The raising of the flag and the playing of the National Anthem are conduct actions that amount to freedom of expression, the same as with the protected burning of the flag. I know which side I take, but I also know there are two sides.
Three, the media often is myopically prejudiced, seeing too often only one side. Caitlin Flanagan, writer for the center-left “The Atlantic,” recently published, “The Media Botched the Covington Catholic Story and the damage to their credibility will be lasting.” She concludes the piece by addressing the NY Times: “You were partly responsible for the election of Trump because you are the most influential newspaper in the country, and you are not fair or impartial. Millions of Americans believe you hate them and that you will casually harm them. Two years ago, they fought back against you, and they won.”
John Stuart Mill was right on the mark when he observed that “He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that.” And President Reagan rightly urged, “Do not be afraid to see what you see.”