Some people like to take every chance they can get to express their hatred for President-elect Trump – even if it means berating his daughter in front of her husband and three children.
According to TMZ, a passenger on a JetBlue commercial flight that Ivanka and her family had also boarded “began verbally berating her” and her family. He screamed, “Your father is ruining this country,” and “Why is she on our flight? She should be flying private.” TMZ reported that she ignored him and distracted her children with crayons. As JetBlue personnel took him off the plane, he continued, “You’re kicking me off for expressing my opinion?!”
Several other news sources reported on this incident as well, using headlines such as, “Airline removes men who ‘expressed displeasure’ flying with Ivanka Trump” and “A Man Was Reportedly Kicked Off a JetBlue Flight After Confronting Ivanka Trump.”
Considering their use of the words “expressed displeasure” and “confronting” indicates that these news outlets intended to downplay the harassment by not calling it what it is. And the man who shouted at Ivanka and her family claimed that he was merely expressing his opinion. The husband of the harasser, Matthew Lasner, tweeted this morning about the incident. The tweet has since been deleted and his Twitter account removed.
Some people on the left, notably those who dislike President-elect Trump, have defended the harassment. Jessica Valenti, self-described feminist author and columnist for The Guardian, tweeted the following:
It is funny that she implies that Ivanka is a grown woman and therefore can handle harassment, because that doesn’t seem to be Valenti’s standard approach to women and harassment. Four years ago, she tweeted this:
And just last week, she tweeted this:
“Horrible to harass anyone at any age.” Unless your last name is Trump, of course; then you’re a grown woman and you can handle it. Didn’t Ivanka’s brother Eric say something similar regarding sexual harassment in the workplace?
Yet Valenti is not the only one defending the harasser. Others have claimed that those who defend Ivanka in this situation are therefore saying that Ivanka should never be criticized for her father’s campaign or incoming presidency. That is nonsense, of course, because nobody is saying that Ivanka is immune from criticism, yet that is the false choice that anti-Trump tweeters present to their audiences in order to justify their defense of harassment.
I understand their concerns; I am a conservative who did not vote for Donald Trump in the primaries and did not even vote for him in the general election. Technically, I am in agreement with those on the anti-Trump side who believe that the incoming president has run a campaign of divisiveness and hate. I even believe that Ivanka has enabled that divisiveness and hatred by supporting her father, although she herself had not contributed to it.
In a free country, we should be free to criticize public figures and the people who publicly and actively support them.
But we should never, ever harass them. Not only is it illegal, it is immoral and dangerous to our political climate.
Yet that is exactly what this man did to Ivanka. He harassed her. He screamed at her in front of her husband and children.
If this man had chosen to take a different approach, one that involved no screaming and no loaded declarations that her father is ruining this country, and instead decided to speak to her in a normal voice and had communicated his concerns civilly, perhaps she would have taken the time to respond, and even if not, at least he would have had a chance to express his opinions without getting kicked out of an airplane and without making the news.
Perhaps it is even true that President-elect Trump’s campaign increased the vitriol of our political climate. Reacting in kind, however, is not how it gets better. In fact, that is exactly how it gets worse. Hate begets hate. Fighting fire with fire only spreads the flames.
Please feel free to criticize the president-elect and his family; our first amendment gives us that right. Please feel free to do so publicly if you happen to run across any of them in person. But doing so civilly, without screaming, yields better results, and maybe even some action. Ivanka has influence over her father; if the harasser had spoken to her calmly throughout the flight, maybe they would have had a good conversation, and she would have relayed his concerns to the president-elect.
Instead we have a news story about a man harassing her, and people on Twitter defending harassment. Which could actually make a positive difference in this country?