by Wendell Barnhouse
RICHARDSON, Texas – One of this week’s distractions from the death count came in Texas, where there’s no state tax, limited regulation of businesses and an apparent disregard for the law. So, ya know, on brand.
Shelley Luther owns Salon a la Mode, which is a hair salon and not an ice cream parlor. She decided to defy the orders of Dallas County judge Clay Jenkins and Gov. Greg Abbott and reopened for business two weeks ago.
As her business continued to operate, Luther ignored a city citation, a cease-and-desist order (which she tore up on camera at a local protest) and a temporary restraining order. This week, she appeared in court. A state district judge asked her to apologize for three acts of law breaking and pledge to follow the law (like most of her competitors). She refused. The judge cited Luther for contempt and sentenced her to seven days in jail.
Well, that’s not how we restart the country’s financial engines in the wake of a pandemic that’s cost over 78,000 lives. Hair needs to trim, styled and dyed; nails must be clipped, buffed and painted. By God, this is Murica.
First, Texas attorney general Ken Paxton (who was indicted for three felonies in 2015 but has been slow-playing the process) said the judge was wrong with his ruling. Then Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, who wants everyone over 70 to just go ahead and die, said he would pay Luther’s fine. Then Governor Greg Abott (who on tape said it was a fact that reopening businesses too soon would increase COVID-19 infections and deaths) back-dated his original order regarding closings. Then the Texas Supreme Court overturned Luther’s conviction and she walked out of jail Thursday after serving two days. Friday, Ted Cruz needed a haircut, so he flew in from Houston to get a trim at Luther’s shop.
I’m this many years old when I remembered the GOP standing for the rule of law. Those four men and the Texas Supreme Court judges are proving to be the hackiest of partisan hacks.
Marquette Wolf is president of the Dallas chapter of the American Board of Trial Advocates and he wrote about the ruling in the Dallas Morning News.
“As for the ruling, Judge Eric Moye rightly ensured that the rule of law prevailed even under the emergency circumstances and enormous challenges of the pandemic. The orders issued by Judge Jenkins and Gov. Abbott have caused pain to everyone. But those orders are and remain the law. As Judge Moye rightly noted, if any citizen or business could violate those orders, or for that matter, any law as they saw fit, then no rule of law would exist, and anarchy would prevail.”
Your Humble Correspondent has been stewing about this all week. Luther is exhibiting the white privilege by ignoring the rule of law, going unpunished and then gaining her 15 minutes of fame. A GoFundMe account has raised $500,000. Damn, I need legal advice. I need a way to break the law, skate prosecution and profit. (And, hell no, I’m not going to work for Trump.)
Thursday afternoon I made a sign. On one side – Boycott – Criminal Owner and on the other side White Privilege Shelley. Friday I picketed at Salon a la Mode but unfortunately I showed up after Cruz staged his dog and pony show.
I’ve spent years taking potshots on Twitter at all the MAGA mouth breathers. This was an opportunity to spend a couple of hours in the belly of the beast.
The salon occupies a corner of a courtyard in a strip shopping mall. It didn’t take long before I met up with a Trump trooper. A man, probably my age, was in a wheeled walker with a seat. He was wearing a MAGA hat. I don’t mean to judge (yes, I do) but his clothes were filthy, and he had smudges of dirt on both arms.
“You’re the devil. Shame on you.”
He then rolled up the salon door. One of the women opened the door and she started to talk with the man, making eye contact with me.
“He doesn’t have anything better to do while the rest of us work. I bet he never even served his country.”
Well, yes, but … WTF?
They then prayed together for my lost soul. The man then said, “the blood of Jesus was spilled for you and may the angels descend and strike you dead.”
Mixed messaging, but whatever.
On one side of the salon, the workers lowered the shades so they couldn’t see me.
One male customer walked up. “Fucking asshole.” Another male customer. “Fucking idiot.” A woman left wearing an “I (Heart) Trump” shirt.
A man showed up and told the greeter he wanted to give Shelley a donation. He had to wait until she showed up. When Luther arrived, he went inside and I stood outside the doorway to make sure she could see my sign.
After about five minutes, Luther came out.
“You can’t block the doorway.”
“I’m not, I’m at least 10 feet from the door, social distancing.”
“I’ll call the police.”
Allow me to pause here and point out that a business owner who defied three different legal documents and was charged with contempt of court wanted the law on her side.
Allow me to pause again and virtually slap myself for not thinking of point that out at the time.
On one of the windows was several sheets of paper where people had written messages of encouragement. One of the signs read, “Shelley Luther, American hero.”
I picked up a Magic Marker and crossed out “hero” and was writing “criminal” when Luther came charging out. “That’s private property.”
“It’s also free speech. Everyone else expressed an opinion; I’m expressing mine.”
I moved to put the marker back on the windowsill and she blocked me.
“I’m just putting it back where it was.”
She kept walking toward me and I kept backing away.
Her husband came out.
“Don’t touch my wife.” (It was apparent that they were seeking a physical confrontation; I’m a talker, not a fighter.)
She told him to go back inside and he did.
“You think I’m a horrible person?” she asked.
“Yes, you broke the law that everyone else was abiding. You should still be in jail. But I notice that this is making you a bunch of money.”
“I donated $18,000 to a black barbershop not far from here.”
“Well, that’s great. Good for you. You’ve still got almost half a million.”
“The cops are on their way.”
“OK, whatever, I’m leaving but I’ll be back.”
“I can’t wait.”
I walked back to my car and decided to wait for the Richardson police to show. They never did; I suppose she could have canceled the call or that she was bluffing.
I decided to walk back to the courtyard with my sign. An elderly man approached me.
“I don’t mind you walking around here but you can’t with that sign.”
“Uh, really? I’m expressing my First Amendment rights.”
“I own this property. You can walk around and spend money, but you can’t carry that sign.”
“Well, I’m not a lawyer or anything but I’m pretty sure you’re wrong.”
He got in his car and left. I continued picketing.
A woman came out of the salon.
“You should be ashamed. You don’t know anything about the Constitution.”
“I believe freedom of speech is the First Amendment.”
“Shelley and her employees are exercising their right to assemble, that’s in the First Amendment.”
“Uh, I think it’s ‘lawful’ assembly … and working isn’t considered assembly, especially if it violates legal orders.”
She walked away, probably to consult her pocket edition of the Constitution.
Another man walked up with the “fucking idiot” salutation.
“What’s the deal with the white privilege shit,” he asked. “Are you a racist?”
He then went on a rant about that included “slavery” and “against the law” and “Democrats were slave owners” before going into the salon. He soon returned. “Hey, I’ll pay for your haircut and tip all the workers.”
“I don’t need a haircut. Just give ‘em your money.”
About that time, a cameraman had showed up and started to set up his equipment. We exchanged hellos.
“Look, I’m outta here. I have no desire to be on TV. I know I’d make a good visual but, sorry. Good luck with the interview.”
On the way home I stopped at a print shop to get a professional version of my hand-printed sign. In a week, Shelley Luther and Salon a la Mode will likely to have faded to the background as other bright, shiny objects gain the attention of the media kittens.
My one-man stand did nothing but stir up some adrenaline and satisfy my curiosity about the COVIDidiots I encountered. I can’t fathom a President* that accepts over 1,000 deaths a day and rejects expert advice. His supporters have blind faith. My fervent hope and belief is that there are more of us than them.