STEVE SEBELIUS: Don’t enable live-action trolls!

It’s difficult for normal people to comprehend the depravity that leads a person to confront a public official in a family restaurant with a loud string of expletives and death threats.

It’s also not easy to understand the enablers who go to any lengths to justify that behavior.

The former would be a lot less common without the latter, and society would be better off without either.

When a churlish heckler confronted Gov. Steve Sisolak and his wife and daughter at a Lindo Michoacan restaurant, Sisolak handled it well, quickly leaving with his idiotic interlocutors in tow. He didn’t return their insults, an admirable bit of restraint.

Equally as pathetic as the Michoacan madness was a question-free “news conference” held Wednesday by Sisolak’s nimrod nemesis. Railing against “unconstitutional and illegal emergency powers” (read: powers duly delegated under the state constitution by the Legislature to the governor), his self-serving excuses were even more pathetic than the original encounter.

He blamed Sisolak’s pandemic response for his “frustration and desperation” (read: inability to exercise self-control).

But that’s wrong. No matter your lot in life — even if the governor was to blame — there are better times, places and ways to express grievances.

A word about the governor’s handling of the pandemic: You may agree or disagree with what he did, but only Sisolak knows what it was like to make literal life-and-death decisions for an entire state with limited information. No one else — not his staff, not his Republican opponents, not pop-off podcasters — knows what that was like.

That doesn’t mean he won’t be judged. Sisolak will face voters in less than eight months, and they will have the final say. But it will be at the ballot box, not at a buffet.

Sisolak’s angry accuser ended his star turn before the cameras refusing to apologize. “I will not apologize for standing up for my beliefs,” he said. “I will not apologize for being a patriot.”

Of course he won’t. Ignorant fools never do.

Then there was the reaction.

Attorney Joey Gilbert initially said Sisolak “earned it” and then issued a few quotes about the First Amendment. But Gilbert, a lawyer, must know that the First Amendment prevents government from censoring speech, but doesn’t give people the right to accost and threaten a person on private property that’s not otherwise a public forum. He should also know as a human being that it was not the time or the place for such ugliness.

Las Vegas Councilwoman Michele Fiore — vying to be the Sharron Angle of 2022 — told Jessica Hill of the Las Vegas Sun that Sisolak “was lucky it was just words. If you look at the history of dictators pitchforks will be next.”

Perhaps most disappointing was Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo, who rightly condemned the assault, but not before saying it was understandable. “While I understand the frustration with Gov. Sisolak and his left-wing policies … ”

But that’s wrong. Nothing justifies what happened in that restaurant, certainly not political differences. As a cop, the sheriff knows that threatening death can in the right circumstances be a crime. And he should know as a human being that what happened to Sisolak should be condemned without qualification, no matter the politics involved.

Some social media moral philosophers said Sisolak’s treatment is just what liberals do to conservatives. Just as the Bible says, “Do unto others exactly as they have done unto you, only tenfold.”

Oh, wait. It doesn’t say that. Nor should you need an advanced degree in moral philosophy to realize that the bad behavior of one group cannot justify the bad behavior of another, lest we walk a road paved with moral idiocy that leads to hatred, division and cruelty.

We all need to condemn this sort of behavior, no matter who does it or to whom. It’s just as wrong for protesters to follow Sen. Kyrsten Sinema into a bathroom as it is for noisy protesters to demonstrate outside the homes of school board members as it is for a U.S. congresswoman to encourage her followers to harass Trump administration officials as it is to heckle a presidential speech like you were at a comedy club as it was for the deluded insurrectionists to assault police at the Capitol on Jan. 6. 2021.

And the sooner we can agree on that uncontroversial point, the sooner we can forget the puerile perpetrator of last Sunday’s incident and move on to a less corrosive public dialogue. We owe that much, at least, to each other.

Contact Steve Sebelius at [email protected]
Follow @SteveSebelius on Twitter.

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