Recent events involving two local businesses, Trump supporters, and harsh backlash spread across social media left me pondering, “How did we get to such a point of incivility?”

Seriously, in 2020, having come so far as a community, how is such behavior allowed to demean our lives? Who could have imagined anyone publicly attempting to book a Hawaiian Shirt Themed Birthday Party in this day and age? It was bad enough back in the ‘70s, but my dear, it’s 2020.  

Such craziness has just left me clutching my pearls in disgust.  

What will be the theme for next week’s gathering, “Al Jolson’s Blackface Swing Night?” Not sure how much longer a civilized person can put up with such continued vulgarity.  

After dusting off an old edition of Good Housekeeping’s “Theme Ideas to Make Your Parties Great Again,” circa 1978, my attention went to Rule #1 on hosting a successful Hawaiian themed party. Rule #1 states that “nothing says ‘Aloha’ more than a bunch of festive people in colorful Hawaiian shirts.” Oh my, putting Andrew Brett and his bunch in loud floral printed shirts does not make for a bunch of festive people or a festive occasion — just makes for a very misguided evening of delusion and poor taste.  

Thankfully, the van full of Polynesian merrymakers toting Trump campaign signs were turned away as Holy Mackerel’s owners decided to pull the plug on the evening’s horrific affair.  

On a more serious note, this event that unfolded in front of a local business struggling to get by shows just how divided and polarized we have become as a community and as a nation.  

Years ago, while operating a restaurant in upstate New York, we reserved our small dining room for the local Republican Committee every other Tuesday evening and the local Democratic Club every other Wednesday. We served coffee, desserts, cocktails and sold a few dinners to those who came in early before the meeting.  

All this was steady income during quiet off-season weeknights in a sleepy mountain town. Today, during these very trying economic times caused by the havoc of a pandemic, restaurants should be quick to take reservations for a sizable party. 

I needed to question how we became so harsh as to want to shut down a local business in retribution for dealing with local Trump supporters.   

Having thought about it for a few days, I started to realize that for years we have watched these hateful people seize every opportunity to deny LGBT people and so many others the hard-fought victories won over the years.  

These hatemongers supported a Colorado baker all the way to the Supreme Court; supported the Kentucky Town Clerk who looked to pick and choose which laws her office would follow; claimed religious protection and exemption laws, all in an attempt to deny my rights to live, work, and marry as I choose.  

Over the years, it was the Republican and Conservative party operatives who became more and more unwilling to live and let live and to respect other people’s way of life. They make no qualms about it. They loudly and forcefully announce their hatred of the homosexual lifestyle, a woman’s right to choose, Muslim hordes looking to take over their Christian country, immigrants who want a free ride, Black protestors looking to loot and riot. This is how we have come so far, so polarized, so harsh.   

We on the other side of this hatred are at a crossroads. We feel threatened; we feel bullied, and we feel a need to fight back against insanity from the highest levels of our nation.  

However, we cannot go down the same road as our right-wing brethren. We cannot give in to the hatred, the lies, the attacks, or we become just as they are — wrong, unjust, and angry.  

We must hold the front line with faith in our fellow human beings, with the belief that people will choose right over wrong, and that all of us are created equal. Not much to ask for from practicing Christians on the right. Not sure what Bible they are reading these days, but they might need to take another look at leaving judgment to the Holy One.  

As a community, we have the right to protest the actions of individuals and groups who look to destroy our quality of life. We shouldn’t look to punish a small business owner in our community struggling to get by in these hard times. We shouldn’t look to deny others their rights just as they would like to do to us. We should meet them at every corner and expose their hatred and prejudice, expose their lies, and expose their falsehoods.  

Only by holding the higher ground, by stating truth and facts, and by embracing everyone’s differences can we continue to make life just better here. 

Sal Torre has been a columnist for the Wilton Manors Gazette since its inception. Sal has served on the Wilton Drive Task Force, Budget Review Advisory Board, and Charter Review Board, among others. Sal is currently President of the Westside Association of Wilton Manors and Secretary for the Friend of the Wilton Manors Library. He is employed with Broward County in the Human Services Division.