Sunday, November 20, 2016

Mike Pence, Anxiety, and Donald Trump's Apology Demands

Donald Trump and his supporters are hot about what happened to vice-president elect Mike Pence as he attended a performance of the hit musical “Hamilton” last Friday (November 18, 2016). Pence attended the show with his daughter, Charlotte, as well as his nieces and nephew, according to one of his aides.
This, in short, is what I understand happened at the theater.
As he took his seat in New York’s Richard Rogers Theater, Pence met a smattering of boos. He then sat through the performance. When the show was over and he headed for the exits, the cast was not quite finished.
Brandon Victor Dixon, the actor who played Aaron Burr, read a statement the cast members had drafted together. Dixon said ...
"I see you walking out but I hope you will hear us. Nothing to boo here, ladies and gentlemen, there's nothing to boo here ... We're all sharing a story of love. We welcome you, and we truly thank you for joining us here at 'Hamilton: An American Musical' -- we really do. 
"We, sir, we are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet, our children, our parents, or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights, sir. But we truly hope this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and work on behalf of all of us. All of us.

"We truly thank you for sharing this show, this wonderful American story told by a diverse group of men and women of different colors, creeds, and orientations."
(Phillip Rucker. “Trump and Pence vs. the cast of ‘Hamilton’: A collision of two Americas.” The Washington Post. November 20, 2016.)

So, by Saturday morning, an outraged Trump, who is determined to be the master of executive twitters, responded to the kerfuffle with this tweet …

Our wonderful future V.P. Mike Pence was harassed last night at the theater by the cast of Hamilton, cameras blazing.This should not happen!”

To which Dixon responded …

Donald Trump, the conversation is not harassment sir. And I appreciate Mike Pence for stopping to listen.”

And “Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda then tweeted to express his support of Dixon and the cast saying …

Proud of Hamilton Musical. Proud of Brandon V. Dixon for leading with love.
And proud to remind you that ALL are welcome at the theater.”

This response elicited this tweet from Trump ...

The Theater must always be a safe and special place. The cast of Hamilton was very rude last night to a very good man, Mike Pence. Apologize!”

And, finally, Trump took to Twitter Sunday morning proclaiming ...

The cast and producers of Hamilton, which I hear is highly overrated, should immediately apologize to Mike Pence for their terrible behavior.”

So What?

Whether you see the original statement by Dixon as an inappropriate and offensive gesture to a paying customer, as a bold statement of trepidation after the most contentious election in modern history, or as theatrical payback considering the past words and actions of both Trump and Pence, it is much ado about nothing.

Oh, I understand how hardcore Trump/Pence supporters view these comments as unfair and as an affront to their elected offices. I get that. However, as the Washinton Post's Rucker reminds us, “'Hamilton' is a musical that reimagines the revolutionary period with multiracial actors playing the statesmen and the contributions of immigrants central to the story.” For obvious reasons, that spells trouble to the incoming administration. And, for obvious reasons, the cast feels a special obligation to plead to Mike Pence.

Pence drew national criticism in March 2015 for signing a “religious freedom” law that would have allowed businesses to refuse services to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Pence has spoken in opposition to gay marriage. He said gay couples signaled “societal collapse.” He opposed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act that prohibits discrimination against LGBT people in the workplace, saying the law “wages war on freedom and religion in the workplace.” And, Pence rejected the Obama administration directive on transgender bathrooms. Arguably, he will be the most openly anti-LGBT Vice-President in history.

Rucker also acknowledges that it would behoove us to remember that “although Trump won a clear majority in the Electoral College, he garnered just 47 percent of the popular vote – well over 1 million votes short of Clinton, with millions of votes still to be counted in primarily liberal states.”

Who's Sorry?

Should Dixon apologize? Reread his comments and weigh any affront. I see only the words “alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us” as being semi-confrontational – words that I have heard time and again expressing discomposure about the upcoming Trump presidency. In fact, these are the same sentiments I have heard over and over from those in Trump's his own party – Paul Ryan, Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, and Marco Rubio to name just a few.

Donald Trump, the man who never apologizes, is now demanding – on Twitter? – an apology from a cast member of a musical. Oh, the irony is damn near laughable. Actually, this statement from the cast may be the most cordial address Pence and Trump will hear in the next four years. If Donald Trump believes this was “terrible behavior” and the theater should be a safe-zone for his administration against the expression of legitimate concerns, he is beginning a desperate battle with those who treasure the First Amendment rights of expression. 

I hope you don't mind if I recap. This whole controversy can be digested like this:

Mike Pence attends the theater. An actor in the musical addresses him after the performance. Donald Trump does not like the perceive affront. Tweet, twitter, tweet, tweet.

And, to put a cap on the comments and the proposed apology, Vice President-elect Mike Pence, himself, said Sunday (November 20) he "wasn't offended" after the cast of "Hamilton" delivered that personal message to him following the show Friday night.

"I know this is a very disappointing time for people that did not see their candidate win in this national election. I know that this is a very anxious time for some people," Pence said on 'Fox News Sunday.'

"And I just want to reassure people that what President-elect Donald Trump said on election night he absolutely meant from the bottom of his heart - he is preparing to be the president of all of the people of the United States of America."

(Rebecca Savransky. “Pence: I 'wasn't offended' by Hamilton message.” The Hill. November 20, 2016.
No apology needed. Case closed.


Yet, it is evident the firestorm over the incident will continue to burn anyone with a thin skin. The “who said what” controversy is simply what it is – opinions based on perceptions formed long before the first curtain opened Friday night. The country remains divided and no amount of “suck it up, buttercup” attacks about accepting the outcome of the presidential election is going to unify instantly the American public.

One thing I do know is that Donald Trump may not refer to the American Revolution as the “great America” to which he desires so strongly to “return” – at least in its musical theater portrayal anyway.

The republican principle demands that the deliberate sense of
the community should govern the conduct of those to whom they
intrust the management of their affairs; but it does not require
an unqualified complaisance to every sudden breeze of passion
or to every transient impulse which the people may receive from
the arts of men, who flatter their prejudices to betray their

--Alexander Hamilton

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