Monday, March 16, 2015

Going off half-staffed

There’s a story going around Facebook from Louisiana that many people are hailing as heroic, but makes me sick.

You can read the firsthand recollection (from the initiator) here and watch video of the confrontation here. To summarize: A veteran drove by a McDonald’s near a town from where a couple of the Marines recently killed in a helicopter accident during training in Florida hailed. He saw that the restaurant had not lowered its flag to half-staff, as had been done at government buildings. He immediately called the McDonald’s and demanded they lower it, to which they replied they’d have to get approval from the local corporate office to do so. After a subsequent stalemate of an exchange, the McDonald’s worker hung up on him on her manager’s orders, which really drew his ire.

He turned his car around, entered the McDonald’s and confronted the clerk in an encounter his family caught on video. (He posted the worker's picture with his story, where commenters quickly demanded her name and job and everything else that comes with such cybershaming.) He demanded to know why she’d hung up on him, to which she replied, “Because you were cursing at me.” He denied that, then promised a massive protest and stood his ground, even after being left alone for several minutes. After yet another confrontation, the worker called the police. An officer (who said he is also a veteran) arrived and broke up the confrontation. The veteran then posted his story as an example of how McDonald’s is aggressively disrespecting the armed forces. And many, many readers agreed with him.

I guessed even before I watched the video that a significant factor had been omitted from this: that the man was in full-on intimidation mode. (He admits in his own account that he might have raised his voice, a telling concession.) There’s no record of the preceding phone call, but I’m guessing 1) it wasn’t overly cordial on his part and 2) it went on longer than necessary than needed to make his point. Then he went inside the restaurant and directly confronted the worker. He might not have yelled or cursed at her, but what he did was still terrifying and absolutely merited a call to the police. (Considering she had no idea what he was capable of doing, she’s actually admirably composed.)

It is the disturbance, the over-the-top fury in a place of business, that is the story, not that McDonald’s allegedly disrespects the troops. Being a military veteran doesn’t excuse this behavior any more than backing gay rights makes harassing a Chick-fil-A clerk OK. 

There are ways of handling perceived wrongs. Bullying is never one of them. 

No comments: