In Ashville, North Carolina, tow truck driver Ken Shupe arrived on the scene to find motorist Cassy McWade standing by her accident-disabled vehicle on Interstate 26. “He goes around back and comes back and says ‘I can’t tow you,” Wade told a reporter. “My first instinct was there must be something wrong with the car. And he says, ‘No, you’re a Bernie supporter.’ And I was like wait, really? And he says, ‘Yes ma’am,’ and just walks away.”
“Something came over me, I think the Lord came to me, and he just said get in the truck and leave. And when I got in my truck, you know, I was so proud, because I felt like I finally drew a line in the sand and stood up for what I believed.”
A few quick points and then I’ll get to the real issue:
1. Shupe is an utter, virulent, IQ-deficient jerk whose conduct and attitude makes a mockery of whatever faith it is cursed to have him belonging to it, and constitute a blight on the society, community,culture and nation so unfortunate as to be stuck with him.
2. News reports make a big deal out of the fact that McWade is confined to a wheelchair. Ah: the theory is that we are only obligated to help our handicapped neighbors in need, is it? It shouldn’t matter if she was an Olympic medalist in the 50 yard dash. You don’t treat other human beings like that in any society that values human rights and common decency.
3. Shupe’s company is Shupee Max Towing in Traveler’s Rest, South Carolina. Nobody in their right mind should patronize this unAmerican creep, including his own family. This was anti-social, cruel and objectively horrible behavior toward someone in need, and Shupe needs to be shunned, hard. If he can’t co-exist with others any better than this, he needs to live in a cave somewhere, because he’s not fit for human association.
4. To anticipate an objection: you may ask how it is that I can argue that friendship should outweigh political differences and advocacy of unethical conduct, and yet designate Ken for ignominy and rejection. If Ken were a friend of mine, I can see myself standing by him even after this miserable behavior. But, as Samuel L. Jackson tells John Travolta in “Pulp Fiction,” “We’d have to be talkin’ about one charming motherfucking pig.”
In a way, however, we should be grateful to Ken Shupe, who has provided in short order and timely fashion a near perfect example of the society-wrecking virus being actively spread by irresponsible zealots on both ends of the political spectrum who are determined to divide the nation and the culture as never before. Yes, never before. During the American Civil War, generals on opposite sides of some of the most bloody battles ever fought arranged to meet and exchange pleasantries, because they had been, and remained, friends. They understood what the self-righteous tow-truck operator, and, increasingly, our entire society, doesn’t.
Yes, Ken Shupe is far from unique, and his rank ranks are increasing. A few days ago, I wrote about Slate’s Isaac Chotiner ‘s essay asserting that people should end friendships with anyone who supports Donald Trump. Chotiner would object to Shupe’s actions, I’m sure, because he believes that only those who support candidates he opposes are unfit for affection, companionship, tolerance and loyalty. Abandoning a woman who supports the virtuous Bernie Sanders is madness, just madness.
Meanwhile, in North Carolina, it is legally sanctioned “religious freedom” to fire a gay employee because he or she is gay, and you can now refuse to sell a gay couple Cheez-Its for their wedding reception if you regard doing so as “participating” in their disgusting, marriage-destroying, sinful ritual.
Go ahead: Explain to me the subtle distinction between leaving a woman stuck by the side of a highway because she has a Bernie sticker on her car, and telling a couple to buy cakes, pâté or a flower arrangement for their wedding reception elsewhere because you disapprove of their likely activities on their wedding night.
Hint: There isn’t any.
The password, my friends, is HATE, and it is being validated and celebrated in the culture above traditional American values like community, cooperation, mutual respect, personal liberty, loyalty, tolerance and fairness. Ken Shupe is the inevitable result of talk radio hosts calling progressives “libtards” and left-wing bloggers referring to Republicans as “repugs.” He is the product of website commenters deriding the President as “Obummer,” and MSNBC hosts calling for someone to shit in Sarah Palin’s mouth.
The truck driver’s smug and sick attitude was forged by elected officials and public figures who demanded that a police officer be tried for his life because he was white when he defended himself in the line of duty, by college students and administrators who enabled them as they demanded “safe spaces” (a.k.a. “segregation”) because white students make them the targets of microaggressions, and by institutions that shame and isolate students and faculty for unpopular views on guns, abortion, illegal immigration, and affirmative action.
If Ken Shupe was on Facebook, he undoubtedly read posts from “friends” announcing that those daring to express support for an unfavored party or candidate would find themselves friendless. Maybe he visited restaurants giving special benefits to customers who appear to embrace the owner’s religion, or those that make it clear that only Republicans and Second Amendment supporters are welcome, because anyone else will be insulted by what they see hanging on the walls.
Partyism is just another form of bigotry, just one that isn’t illegal.
The United States is predicated on the concept of open political advocacy and freedom of expression, neither of which is worth John Nance Garners’ bucket of warm spit if we face being left in a ditch because of the candidate we support. With a likely race between Clinton and Trump developing like a toxic spill, the corrosive behavior modeled by Ken Shupe–and North Carolina, and Isaac Chotiner—is likely to get worse, and I don’t know how much “worse” our suffering sense of community can stand.
Each of us has an ethical duty to do whatever we can to stop and reverse this dangerous trend.
We also have a duty to help neighbors who get stranded on the highway, no matter what the bumper stickers on their cars say.