Remember when freedom of speech and expression meant something?

Garland, Texas resident Andy Ternay over the weekend was asked to leave a local restaurant because he was wearing a t-shirt that said, “F*ck Trump — and f*ck you for voting for him.” Writing on Facebook, Ternay explains that he wore his shirt to a local restaurant when he went out for breakfast on Sunday morning. He says that a manager approached him and asked him to leave because children in the restaurant might see his shirt. “I expressed deep sympathies and let her know that explaining ‘grab ‘em by the pussy’ and golden showers to my daughter was equally unpleasant,” Ternay writes. Overall, Ternay says that his shirt got nods of approval from black and Latino employees at the restaurant — even though many white customers bristled at seeing it.

Depending on your point of view, Andy Ternay is either a patriot exercising his 1st Amendment rights…or a crass attention-seeker and childish rabble-rouser. I’m not certain either of those things is necessarily bad, though I suspect he was well aware that his t-shirt would generate some strong reactions…especially in Texas. Sometimes being a rabble-rouser is a great way to shake people from their self-satisfied complacency. My philosophy has always been that if you piss someone off, at least you’ve made them think…if only for a moment.

Mission Accomplished.

On the one hand, I have to applaud Ternay for possessing the cojones to wear his “$#%@ Trump” t-shirt in the heart of one of America’s reddest states. It takes infinitely more courage to wear a t-shirt like that in Garland, Texas, than it does here in the Liberal Paradise that is Portland, Oregon.

Ternay’s sartorial choice is one I may not have made for myself- I generally prefer to be a bit more subtle, but there can be no argument over his right to express himself in his chosen manner.

As I’ve said what seems like a thousand and one times, the 1st Amendment guarantees even speech deemed by some as objectionable or offensive. No one’s required to like Ternay’s opinion or his preferred means of expressing it, but neither does anyone have a right to quash chosen form of personal expression.

Overall, Ternay says that his shirt got nods of approval from black and Latino employees at the restaurant — even though many white customers bristled at seeing it.

“Everywhere I go with this shirt, white males sneer and people of color smile and give me thumbs up,” he writes. “I think it is very worthwhile to let people of color know they are not alone – that some whites also see the evil of racism is resurgent – and we will fight with our brothers and sisters of color against it.”

In Texas, a state where Donald Trump remains popular among the White majority, strong expressions of dissent such as Ternay’s should be considered courageous. His statement occurred in a place where many would consider him a threat and take action- up to and perhaps even including physically assaulting him or damaging his property. Some Conservatives don’t take dissent well.

Whether or not you agree with Ternay’s views or his chosen means of broadcasting them, we should all be able to agree that he has the constitutional right to do- and continue doing- what he did. That there are those who’d seek to stop him is something which says more about their unAmerican intolerance than it ever could about Ternay.

This past summer I went to a Willie Nelson concert outside Portland and came across a man wearing a red “Make America Great Again” hat. No one said a word to him, but people reacted to him as if he carried a communicable disease. They gave him a wide berth, as if an invisible force field surrounded him. Those who did acknowledge him shook their head in pity and disgust. NO ONE thought to confront him and ridicule him for his taste in chapeaus…because here in America, people are allowed to express themselves. Worse, confronting him would have been a very un-Willie thing to do.

The 1st Amendment applies even when the views being expressed are offensive and objectionable. That’s how we do it here in America, y’all. Get over yourselves and deal with it.

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