TROY, N.Y.--The country has gone crazy. The latest example is from Troy, where a small printing shop is being subjected to social-media fury for selling a single Donald Trump shirt. Some online warriors are boycotting or campaigning to inundate the store, Troy Cloth & Paper, with phone calls and damning online reviews.
I stopped by Monday and talked with Daniel Langer, the manager of Troy Cloth & Paper and one of its owners. As you can imagine, he was stressed and, with 400 angry Facebook direct messages aimed at the business, more than a little worried about the long-term impact on the Third Street store.
Langer says the offending T-shirt, which includes Trump's image and urges that America be made great again, was a leftover from the 2016 election. On Saturday, the store, clearing out old inventory, put the single Trump shirt on an outdoor clearance rack with a few old Bernie and Hillary shirts. The Trump shirt could be had for five bucks.
That afternoon, according to Langer, a man came in waving the shirt and accusing the store of being run by Nazi sympathizers. (For what it's worth, Langer is Jewish.)
Later on Saturday, a photo of the shirt was posted on Facebook, presumably by the same guy, with commentary saying that Troy Cloth & Paper was "furthering the propaganda of the racist demagogue" and declaring that it belongs on "the boycott list." (I wasn't able to reach the man for comment.)
Cue the online fury.
Troy Cloth & Paper is not normally a purveyor of controversial or political shirts. The store, until recently located on River Street, is best known for shirts and prints celebrating the city of Troy. It sells greeting cards and just about anything else that can display a printed message.
It is also a contract printing business, which means it sometimes produces shirts advocating a client's point of view. Frequently, Langer said, Troy Cloth & Paper ends up printing shirts for both sides of a campaign or debate.
But don't go there expecting to find contentious shirts. Other than on Saturday, the shop doesn't sell them. Again, we're talking about a controversy provoked by one lonely Trump shirt.
Let's hope that gets everybody off their back. But here's a question: What if a store in downtown Troy did dare sell political shirts? Would that be really be so awful?
I suppose there might be no controversy so long as the store only displayed merchandise with an "acceptable" political message. God forbid that some poor soul be triggered by somebody else's divergent opinion--or by free speech.
As it happens, I also talked to Maurice Rucker on Monday. Rucker's story, which received national attention, is another example of how the country is losing its mind.
I detailed in a column a few weeks back that Rucker was working at Home Depot on Central Avenue in Albany when a customer hit him with angry and racist vitriol. Among other ugly foolishness, the man, who is white, said Rucker's opinion didn't matter because he lives in the ghetto and wouldn't have a job without Trump.
Home Depot fired Rucker, who is black, for confronting the man. Rucker has since started a job with the Albany County Probation Department working with at-risk kids. As far as he's concerned, it's a great resolution to an ugly incident.
"I guess my 15 minutes of fame are over," Rucker told me.
Some of you would argue Trump's divisive rhetoric has emboldened bigots like the Home Depot customer. I agree with that.
But I also see the rage directed at Troy Cloth & Paper as the flip side of the coin. As the partisan abyss widens, it's another example of intolerance and incivility toward those who merely think differently.
Trump won Rensselear County with 47 percent of the vote, and many of those voters had valid reasons for their decision. Disagree with them all you want, but don't dismiss them as a bunch of bigots or deplorables.
Instead of trying to understand or engage or even debate, too many who resist Trump would rather silence his supporters--or get angry about a T-shirt. It's a tactic that makes Trump stronger.
Editorial on 08/01/2018
Print Headline: Country is losing its mind