When Robert Warner scribbled a message on a piece of paper and stuck it on the window of his restaurant Cafe 8 ½, in Hawaii, he wasn’t expecting to cause global outrage.
The note read: “If you voted for Trump you cannot eat here. No Nazis.”
“It’s gotten so bad that I don’t answer the phone anymore and it doesn’t stop ringing,” he groans.
“People have screamed, ‘I hope your place burns down!’– violent things like that, and, of course, a lot of swearing,” he explains. “People are trying to shut me down.”
Warner is surprised at the level of acrimony aimed his way.
“I am just this little guy and all of a sudden this big thing has happened. Why are all these people talking about me? I have a place that is so tiny, I am a nobody and they are upset about what I say?” he says.
“It just doesn’t make any sense. I only intended [the message] to be seen by people who walked in off the street. You can’t even see my sign from the street. It’s not that big and there are only twelve words. I would have used different words if I were putting this out to the public.”
But when the particularly contentious word, Nazi, is used to describe someone’s views, naturally emotions are inflamed.
“Well, some of these people really are Nazis. Literally. The neo-Nazi party supported Trump. The KKK. Many racists support him,” he says.
But not all the attention has been negative. “The restaurant has been busier than ever, which is positive, but not in the way that life is easier for me. It’s hard to deal with all this crap.”
He’s quick to point out that his fighting words weren’t meant for all Republicans. “A lady walked by my restaurant with a dog, and I went out to say, ‘What a cute little dog.’ She looked at me with anxiety in her eyes and I said, ‘I hurt you, didn’t I?’ She said, ‘Yes.’” Warner breaks down in tears. “I told her that I knew she wasn’t a Nazi.’ We talked for a while and she ended up shaking my hand.”
Still upset, he says, “No matter how much I think Trump is a fool, he’s still a human being. But what is happening is heartbreaking. Hitler should have been stopped early on and he wasn’t, and I think this man is a lunatic.”
It seems Warner’s preoccupation with the Republican party began well before President-Elect Trump entered the political realm. “During the Bush years I’d put things up in the window. I have a sense of humor, and of course some people get pissed off. Once I drew [President] Bush in a cartoonish way. I made him look like a monkey and wrote ‘Idiot’ underneath,” he recalls. “We had the head of the Young Republican party ask my wife to take it down or he’d never come back.’ She told him, ‘That’s fine.’ And left it there. But with this sign, I wrote it and took it down.
“I never went that far before about George Bush. I was just mad that he lied about why we attacked Iraq, but this is different. A lot of Republicans do not support this man. These are people that aren’t really Republican.”
In retrospect, would he have refrained from putting his controversial message in the window? “No,” he says. “This is life, this is what it is. It’s almost out of my hands. I had no plan for this to happen and I am not trying to be a spokesman for any movement, but people are kind of looking at me like that, like I am the one saying what needs to be said, and they feel that that’s really a good thing. I am thinking, well I guess they are right, but I am carrying the burden with it now, too.”
Needless to say, come January 20, Warner will not be watching President-Elect Trump’s Inauguration Day.
“No, why would I put myself through that? And a lot of us will be boycotting it. The same day there’s supposed to be a counter-event with big musicians like Bruce Springsteen putting on their own musical event,” he says. “And I think that’s wonderful.”
Uplifted by counter-Trump events and a counter-Trump movement, when it comes to the reality of living in a Trump America, he says, “What a world.” He laughs. “He could just blow the whole thing up.”
This article was originally published on news.com.au