Kwame Anthony Appiah, aka. “The Ethicist,” received this question three weeks ago. He answered correctly and excessively nicely, as I would expect him to, but my concern is with the question and the questioner. “E.K.” asked,
“My husband and I employ a local dog walker….She is an excellent dog walker: reliable, responsible and kind. A friend told me that throughout the fall and after the presidential election, she frequently posted rants on Facebook about liberals and immigrants, pro-Trump messages and falsehoods about how the election was stolen. We are disgusted by the postings and now wonder if we should use her again. On the one hand, we respect people’s right to their opinions and appreciate the good service she provided. On the other, we do not want our money to go to someone who supports viewpoints that we believe are hurtful and detrimental to our democracy.“
This is why I’m not an advice columnist, I guess. Here is how I would have answered that question:
YOUR viewpoint is detrimental to democracy; indeed, I glean from your question that you do not know what the principles underlying democracy and pluralism are. You would apparently be far more comfortable in a system with enforced beliefs, where individuals who do not conform to the “right” views are ostracized and persecuted until they capitulate. You say you respect people’s right to their opinions, but you obviously do not. When someone’s opinions do not agree with your own, you want them to suffer for it, to be punished. You say you respect the right, but don’t respect an individual who exercises that right sufficiently to be willing to associate with her. That means you don’t respect the right either.
Do you require all service providers and vendors to provide full statements of their political and social views before you engage in commerce with them? I expect not. Nor are you accustomed to businesses and establishments demanding that you subscribe to the proprietor’s views in order to be served, and would presumably be angered should that become the case. Not only are you ignorant of the Golden Rule, but you are a bully, choosing to punish, of all people, a dog-walker for expressing her opinions to others. What she says, write or expresses to others are none of your business as her employer. They do not reflect on you, and do not affect you in any way.
You don’t even know what she wrote! Your friend relayed hearsay, which unreliable as evidence of anything, but you are willing to take away a modest job from someone who is, by your own assessment, reliable, responsible and kind. Rather than firing her, you should learn from her, for you are not responsible or kind, at least as your character is revealed in this instance.
I would suggest that you carefully consider how you got this way. People like you are tearing society apart, while making the public square an ugly, mean and uncivil place. You need to broaden your circle of friends, learn to have discussions with people like your dog-walker while listening to what they have to say, and open your mind.