Here in food-centric Louisiana, where the dinner table is the altar of civic and social life, the thought of turning someone away from a meal seems especially off-key. That’s what happened Friday night when President Donald Trump’s press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, was asked to leave a Washington, D.C. area restaurant by the owner, who dislikes the president’s policies.
The president and his politics are deeply controversial — so much so that the question of Donald Trump seems to pervade every aspect of American culture these days. But in Louisiana, we know perhaps more than most about the value of breaking bread with friends — and even adversaries. It’s a way to affirm our basic humanity amid sometimes painful differences.
The restaurant owner who turned Sanders away said she did so from moral conviction. She has been simultaneously celebrated and vilified, like the Colorado baker who declined to create a wedding cake for a gay couple and won a Supreme Court victory this month.
But how are we going to bridge our disharmony if our common public spaces — our restaurants, our theaters, and now, so it seems, our professional football arenas — become divided by partisan disputes?
In Louisiana, we have a unique obligation to show the rest of the country how food, civility and political tolerance can go hand in hand. For much of our history, meals have moderated political life. Even here, we suspect that fewer and fewer people of differing political persuasions are eating together, and that's a real shame. With a little more fried catfish handed across the partisan divide, maybe the governor and state lawmakers would not have required seven special sessions in two years to address Louisiana’s fiscal cliff.
Now more than ever, it’s time to put away the politics at the dinner table, and pass the gumbo.