Friday, April 16, 2010

We Don't Much Care for Sweatshirts Round These Parts

Posted By on Fri, Apr 16, 2010 at 11:44 AM

President Barack Obama held a "Beer Summit" at the White House in an attempt to quell tension over the arrest of black Harvard Professor Skip Gates by a white cop who suspected Gates of breaking into his own house.

And now, Boise City Councilman TJ Thomson, an ardent Obama supporter, has organized the first ever "Burger Summit" to quell tension over his recent Facebook posting, which has drawn more than 100 comments.

Before we get into the circumstances of Thomson's unrest, here's the details: Burger Summit (AKA Burgerfest) Wednesday, April 21, at 6:30 p.m. Five Guys Burgers in Meridian, 2830 North Eagle Rd. Anyone is invited to show up in political garb of any ilk, to share a burger, not make any speeches, and peacefully co-exist.

So what could spark such madness? Thomson trying to get a burger this week and having the exact opposite experience.

On Wednesday April 14, Thomson threw on an old sweatshirt to jog down to Five Guys to pick up some dinner. The sweatshirt happened to be 08’ Obama campaign garb, something other diners took vocal issue with.

“It was like a wild west film where the music stops.,” says Thomson. “And I thought it was fine, I’d just go about my business. But there was all this talk. One woman said, I bet this bum doesn’t have a job. He’s probably here hoping for a job, cause my shirt said hope on it.”

Thomson says what started as one couple muttering and eye-rolling to one another spread virally throughout the restaurant and created a truly uncomfortable situation. Not wanting to start any issues, he waited silently for his food and went home.

When he got home he made a post on Facebook about the experience, expressing his frustration that even just a campaign shirt brought out the worst in political discourse, that it was enough to temporarily make him question his faith in neighborly love.

Thomson told BW that his post was to express dissatisfaction, not with what people said, but that people cared what he was wearing.

That post received over 100 comments, many reproduced at the liberal blog The Daily Kos. Some of them sympathetic, some of them also frustrated with the tone of modern political dialogue, and some of them further attacks on the Obama administration. One frequent contributor to the thread went so far as to say that support for Obama would have been enough for Thomson to lose his vote.

“I have a stack of sweatshirts I cycle thru when I get home each night. One is from the '08 campaign. But it shouldn't matter what I am wearing. I understand there is some disrest out there, but what I do at the City level is a far cry from what happens in D.C,” Thomson responded.

One of the commenters suggested Thomson and friends go back in Obama garb to express support for a tolerant public sphere; an Obamarama. Thomson then widened the idea to include any political garb of any ideology or candidate, saying that it’s not about a single candidate or party as much as it is about supporting the freedom of speech and showing we can talk politics without name-calling.

Thomson says this isn’t directed at the restaurant, that he just wants to get some people together to enjoy the best burgers in town.

Further comments on Thomson’s FB post seemed supportive of the idea, but even Thomson admits there is the possibility he’s being overly optimistic. “I don’t know what to expect,” Thomson says. “But I like to have faith that neighborly love is better than what I experienced the other evening.”

Shawna, an Assistant Manager at Five Guys Burgers, says she didn’t know about the situation, but she’s all for the burger summit.

“I’m glad to have people enjoy burgers and celebrate the freedom of speech at the same time,” says Shawna.

Thomson says that since this idea is fairly abstract, he can't really make any sort of predictions on attendance. “If even one person joins me, it’s a success,” he says. “Regardless of how many people show up, dialogue is the main idea. Doesn’t matter what your views are, or what you’re wearing, we can still eat together.”

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