Editorials

Did Kobach foes force Lawrence restaurants to close? We don’t want hate with our eggs

To all the daunting challenges facing business owners today — market forces, personnel problems, taxes and regulations, economic vagaries — should we add abject hatred?

Sadly, maybe so. The owner of two Lawrence, Kansas, locations of Jimmy’s Egg said he felt forced to close the restaurants due to enmity directed at the business because he is a former Republican candidate.

Owner Wink Hartman says the fact that he was former Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s running mate last year on the losing ticket in the Kansas gubernatorial race led some in the heavily Democratic community to write “f--- Kobach” on his restaurant tables — as well as on manager Morrie Sheets’ car, which was also allegedly smeared with feces on the windshield and door handles.

The restaurants opened only last spring. Hartman told The Star the harassment began shortly thereafter with people verbally abusing customers going into the restaurants, and graduated to people spitting on his employees and urinating on their cars.

“People have their opinions in Lawrence, Kansas,” Hartman said. “They decided to take it upon themselves to make sure our businesses were very unsuccessful there.”

“I had to do something before someone got hurt,” Sheets told the Lawrence Journal-World about the decision to close Monday.

Skeptics wondered this week if perhaps the restaurants were failing of their own accord, but Hartman says that while they did underperform, it was precisely because of “the continual vulgar response (to) our presence in Lawrence.”

It surely stretches credulity to imagine Hartman and Sheets would invent this story. Moreover, it’s not that long ago that University of Kansas faculty objected to Chick-fil-A’s mere continued presence and prominence on campus.

Have we really gotten to the point in this country where some feel free to torment political foes to the point of riding them out of town on a rail?

As political foes go, Sheets certainly doesn’t seem to be much of one. The face of the franchise in Lawrence, he has a business relationship with someone who ran on the bottom of a duly nominated major-party gubernatorial ticket. What might’ve befallen Sheets had he further adorned the store or himself with MAGA regalia?

The clear implication in this sad episode is that some believe dissenting political views should be snuffed out or driven out by any means necessary. Hartman said that although he’s never had this problem anywhere else, he needs to be more astute in taking local politics into account in his business decisions.

“It’s very unfortunate, but that’s where we are today,” he told The Star. “We’re going to take the equipment and move to another town that would like to have a restaurant like ours.”

One has every right to choose not to patronize a business for whatever reason. We vote with our feet and our wallets every day for one thing or against another, though boycotting each other over our political beliefs is a most slippery slope.

To further hound fellow citizens and vandalize their business and personal property with expletives and excrement is, in no civilized society, the least bit acceptable. If you find yourself defending it, consider the possibility that you’re becoming what you profess to hate.

And once we’ve decided to build a wall between us and those we disagree with, where exactly do we draw that line? Few incidents more than this one raise the question. Sheets hasn’t even met Kobach. How many degrees of separation are required between us before one is shunned from “polite” society?

And just how polite will that society be?

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