This week marks our nation's 242nd birthday. Many of us will choose to celebrate it in our backyards, grilling up all-American foods such as hot dogs, burgers, and corn on the cob.
And we will commemorate it, as usual, with ice cream, apple pie, and fireworks.
We will invite our families and friends, people who we -- at least superficially -- enjoy being around.
Fortunately, we have control over who we invite into our homes, for the most part. Sure, we might end up with a guest bringing someone whose views we find morally and ethically repulsive but it's easy enough just to avoid that person and, if necessary, throw them out of the house.
It's a little bit harder to do that in public spaces, such as restaurants. Last week, our country was locked in an ethical debate of whether or not staff members of the Trump administration should be ejected from dining and other privately-owned businesses due to their political leanings.
Obviously, Sarah Huckabee Sanders had absolutely no idea she would be unwelcome at the Red Hen and would be asked to pack up and leave. Just like Joe Biden didn't know he'd be unwelcome at Crumb and Get it, a Radford, Virginia cookie bakery where he'd planned a campaign stop in 2012.
However, if either had good intelligence on the political leanings of where they were going to eat, maybe we all could have avoided that entire unfortunate situation and the public embarrassment that ensued.
That's where technology comes in.
Two new mobile social apps by Silicon Valley startup PoliDine -- founded in November 2016 and formed by a group of former software engineers from Yahoo, Microsoft, and Facebook, are looking to change how and where we choose to go out and eat and spend our money on goods and professional services.
BluePlate and RedMeat, targeted at the Democrat/Liberal and Republican/Conservative crowds respectively, may finally allow everyone concerned to dine out in peace.
Each of the apps has been modeled on Yelp, except that they have a characteristically blue or red theme depending on the user's political extraction. So no concerns whatsoever about being on a network with people who believe differently than you do -- it's all in the colors.
The technical implementation of each app is nearly identical, but the community management and marketing teams are entirely separate.
PoliDine is staffed with liberal and conservative employees who vet and list businesses that align with the correct political leanings for each respective network. This is achieved using crowd-sourced data and a sophisticated, patented political alignment algorithm designed by former Cambridge Analytica contractors.
Although all software development is done on public cloud services like Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform, the different teams do not even work in the same facility together.
BluePlate is based in San Francisco, and RedMeat is based in Dallas.
The founders of PoliDine decided that two discrete apps were necessary because after performing initial market research, they discovered that each demographic has very specific requirements, and it was clear from their interactions they wanted Separate but Equal treatment.
Not only did each group not want to be seen in public with each other, but they also didn't want to socialize on the same network, after being subjected to constant exposure to the other side on Facebook and Twitter.
PoliDine determined that each restaurant review should be free of each group's invective, and nobody should be subjected to advertising from any business that has political views they find offensive or challenging their accepted norms.
If you're not sure if you need BluePlate or RedMeat, because you might fall somewhere in between that spectrum, don't worry. When you sign onto the PoliDine network for the first time, you'll be subjected to a 127-point multiple axis questionnaire of where your leanings actually lie, and you'll be placed into the correct box with the people who you actually should be eating out with.
The development team at PoliDine told me that an extremely small number of people may not be placed in either box. These individuals belong to a statistically invalid minority of the population that is capable of overlooking political differences and still enjoying social interaction. For these folks, neither app may be suitable or even necessary.
There are some challenges of course to finding certain types of cuisines on the PoliDine network, depending on which app you are logged on with.
During my private preview of the service, I had both BluePlate and RedMeat installed on my iPhone and I had a few issues with locating, for example, a decent Liberal Barbecue restaurant in Lubbock, Texas.
Equally, I was challenged on a recent business trip to Columbia, South Carolina where it was especially hard locating a Tea Party-Affiliated Halal Middle Eastern restaurant. Vegan Right-Centrist Libertarian was difficult as well.
The company is actively working with restaurateurs and hospitality groups to fill the gaps between genres that are underserviced in specific markets, and it looks like it may present some new business opportunities.
Obviously, finding certain types of cuisines in some demographics can be challenging and may not be solvable at all, but the folks at PoliDine are gathering some really good data in the process.
For example, if you are using RedMeat, it will tell you which businesses in your area are LGBTQ-friendly, or under minority or Jewish ownership, so you can avoid or protest them as you deem necessary.
And likewise, if you are using BluePlate, it will let you know if your local coffee shop owner recently renewed their NRA membership or is affiliated with pro-life/anti-abortion organizations.
When you check into any of these businesses, you can even report how many EV's or diesel-fuelled trucks you see in their parking lots, so as to validate that they are attracting the right kind of folks for each listed demographic.
I mean it wouldn't be appropriate for climate change believers and their Priuses to be hanging out at Chick-Fil-A, right? Or for the guy with the gun rack on his F250 to be at Smoothie King.
Businesses want to know -- and their customers should want to know about who is patronizing them.
The developers at PoliDine originally designed both BluePlate and RedMeat for restaurants but are open to adding other kinds of businesses, such as doctors, lawyers, and other services such as laundromats, landscaping, HVAC/plumbing, and pest control.
This sort of political crowdsourced information is extremely valuable and ultimately will help us create a superior segregated, compartmentalized and far less confrontational society.
We should never have to run into each other on our off-time. It's bad enough when we are actually forced to play nice with each other and be civil at work. It's exhausting.
Folks, if you haven't realized it by now this entire article is satire. But given the rancid flavor of political discourse we are all now being subjected to, and the level of intolerance on both sides of the fence, it would not surprise me at all if these types of services were already in the works.
Many of you may be aware that I was once involved in the creation of food discussion communities. Food and restaurants are subjects that are very near and dear to my heart.
Restaurants and dining attract people from all walks of life, and from all different backgrounds.
It is one of the few things that as a democracy brings us together and allows us to appreciate all the unique things that different cultures bring to the table.
For my friend Anthony Bourdain, who committed suicide last month at the age of 61, restaurant and street dining were his passion. He ate and drank (with gusto) with people from all kinds of cultures and in vastly different social stratification.
It did not matter if he was in Iran or Indonesia, he always found a way to connect with people through food, no matter how they felt about our nation and its policies. No matter how alien or different.
While there is no way I could possibly know how he might feel about this particular issue -- and he definitely had strong opinions on many things, I know that in his own restaurant, Les Halles, when he was a working chef and not traveling around the world he welcomed everyone.
I know this because I experienced it myself.
The foundation of our union and the basic tenets of our Constitution were, in fact, created in taverns in places like Boston, New York, and Philadelphia in the late 1700s. Where folks from all kinds of political extractions -- ones who had views which would look both familiar and very alien to us today -- would sit at opposing sides of the table, drink alcohol, and break bread.
We are talking about people who fought publicly in the media of the time and were avowed enemies -- and many of them had so much seething hate for each other their arguments did not end just in fisticuffs, but often full-on duels with pistols at 20 paces.
It is in taverns, the precursors to modern restaurants, where bloodshed was avoided, where deals across the table were made. This is not a process that tavern owners interfered with. If you behaved yourself, and you followed the rules of the tavern, and you paid your bill, you were allowed to come back. Period. End of discussion.
Throwing people out of restaurants because their views conflict with that of the owners or management is not only unacceptable but it flies in the face of the very nature of the hospitality industry's raison d'être, which above all else is to be hospitable and to feed people.
How are we supposed to find common ground if there is, in fact, no common actual grounds to sit down and share a meal? To buy each other a few cocktails? A place to grease the conversation by talking about neutral subjects before getting down to the very difficult business at hand of bringing our country back together?
The only way to bridge the kind of divides we are now experiencing as a culture is to demonstrate to the other side is that we are at least capable of initiating a conversation. And that means welcoming them into our businesses and our homes and showing that our hospitality is what makes us human, that nobody will be refused entry if they respect basic tavern rules.
I go to restaurants to seek human contact, to find diversity. Sometimes I find people that have beliefs and views that are very different from my own. But I go there to listen because restaurants are where voices of real people are represented, not those from professional political ideologues.
Politicians of all kinds must be allowed in restaurants for the prime reason that they should be exposed to more real people. And they should be obligated to read and abide by tavern rules.
That's all I have to say about this ridiculousness. Also, if you put ketchup on your hot dog at my 4th of July Party, I will be tossing you out the front door. I'm tolerant but I have my limits.
Do you think our society warrants BluePlate or RedMeat apps to segregate our political culture? Talk Back and Let Me Know.