Hawaii eatery 8 1/2 Cafe, which primarily serves Italian food, is under fire after reportedly posting a yellow, handwritten sign on its front door that reads, “If you voted for Trump you cannot eat here! No Nazis.”
Some customers – even those who didn’t vote for President-elect Donald Trump – have taken issue with the sign, flooding the Honolulu restaurant's Facebook page with negative, 1-star reviews.
“8 1/2 will not serve anyone who supported Trump for president,” one Facebook user wrote. “This action is basically bias against half of America for thinking differently than they do and it’s horrible (besides being financially stupid). I will never, ever dine at 8 1/2 again. Sleep in the bed you made for yourselves.”
A few things to consider here. First, I wondered: is this even real? One can see the sign (below). But couldn’t a patron have posted the sign just as easily as the owner? This is a hoax, I thought. Nope.
Fox News spoke to the owner’s wife, Jali Warner. She told Fox that her husband Robert posted the sign to express his disgust with the president-elect.
“Robert just wants to express how much he doesn’t like Trump,” Jali Warner said. “If people take it personally or it hurts them, we cannot help. That’s why we say they have [a] choice if they want to come or not come. We don’t force them.”
She said the restaurant isn’t asking people whom they voted for and have allowed people in Trump clothing to eat in the café. So, in effect, the ban is more an expression of speech than an actual prohibition, one could argue.
This is a generous interpretation, of course. We live in an age in which private businesses do not have carte blanche freedom to decide who they serve. And a sign telling some people they are not welcome could easily be construed as such.
The larger question, perhaps, is this: How can any restaurateur think this is acceptable business decorum or good for business?
The answer, I think, can be found in the fact that many people and organizations have spent the last 18 months dehumanizing Donald Trump and his supporters. Ask yourself this: If one truly believes these people are Nazis, what respect do they really deserve?
There is some irony in this thinking, of course. It was precisely this type of dehumanization the Nazis employed to great effect. They just used a different word to dehumanize the "others": Untermensch.
Untermensch—from unter (“under, below”) and mensch (“person”)—were those the Nazis defined as literally subhuman. These were the people the Nazis persecuted and exterminated in their effort to build a German utopia. Jews were considered untermensch, of course, but they were hardly alone. Gypsies, Poles and other Slavic peoples also fell into the category.
The owner of Hawaii eatery 8 1/2 Café could very well have been making a joke when he posted that sign in the window of his café. This was a stupid thing to do, and he likely realizes that now (assuming he's reading the comments on his restaurant's Facebook page). It’s also a dangerous way of thinking.
Let’s hope Mr. Warner and others realize that, too.
Jon Miltimore is senior editor of Intellectual Takeout. Follow him on Facebook.