The morality play that is modern American politics opened a surprise act in Richmond this weekend. The drama at Black Swan Books, a rare- and used-book store in the Fan, offers two clear lessons: one on the value of decency and openness, the other on the dangers of rage and ignorance.
The trouble began when Steve Bannon — former Richmonder, conservative provocateur, and ex-Trump White House adviser — was spotted in the store on Saturday. Word spread and Bannon was soon confronted, in the store, by a young woman who screamed obscenities in his face. When she was politely asked to leave, she refused and continued to curse Bannon, according to a witness. The woman finally departed after the owner, Nick Cooke, instructed an employee to call the police. Bannon did not respond to the woman.
Things went downhill from there.
After The Times-Dispatch reported the incident, social media took over and a nationwide mob of anti-Trump bullies attacked, abused, and cursed Cooke and his business. A few threatened violence and gunplay. It was a disgraceful display, but one that has become increasingly common.
Cooke, whose political beliefs are nearly the opposite of Bannon’s, handled the unexpected, unpleasant incident with grace and courage. He set a standard for decent, respectful adult behavior. His statement, released online even as he was being savaged by a childish digital mob, is worth reading — and remembering — for its straightforward simplicity: “While I personally disagree strongly with Mr. Bannon’s political views, I will not allow someone to shout obscenities at any customer in our bookstore.”
Bravo. It’s discouraging to see admirable, obvious common sense treated, at least by one hysterical faction, as cause for derision and contempt. We can only hope that the vicious resistance represents just a sliver of this good nation. One thing is entirely certain: Nick Cooke is a far better — and more effective — advocate for the principles of a liberal society than was the screeching woman or the mongering digital wolfpack, which are fast becoming the public face of the anti-Trump movement.
Those hoping to re-elect the president must be pleased.