In a story that made headlines and prompted an angry diatribe of tweets from the President-Elect Donald Trump, a couple of weeks ago the cast of Hamilton on Broadway, upon learning Mike Pence was amongst the audience, addressed him publicly at the end of the show to call out his politics. Trump found the speech offensive and out of place, and even people in the arts world debated whether the actors abused their platform, while others applauded the cast’s courage. So were the cast right to call out Pence?
Conversation is not harassment, sir’, said Brandon Dixon on Twitter in response to Donald Trump’s demands for an apology to Mike Pence, following Dixon’s bold statement directed towards the vice-president elect. Indeed, Dixon was polite and thoughtful, and definitely did not show aggression in his address to Pence after their performance. Merely stating an opinion that has been shared by many following Trump’s election, Dixon expressed how diverse Americans currently feel ‘alarmed and anxious’ that the new administration will not protect them under Trump’s leadership. He simply called for a celebration of diversity in American society, as had been showcased by the cast of Hamilton in their politically-charged play. It was not a violent message by any means, showing Trump’s accusations of ‘harassment’ to be far-fetched.
So, is it appropriate for the cast to even use their play as a means of voicing their opinions? Of course, and no they shouldn’t apologise for their actions. It was done in a respectful manner, welcoming Pence and even reprimanding the audience for booing. As the under-represented ethnic minorities will have an even smaller role in Trump’s government, a reputable play accessible to a wide audience seems like the only platform where they can be heard. When looking at the mass riots which have spread across the states like wildfire during and after the election, surely we should be recognising the courageous efforts made by the cast of Hamilton. In a democratic age, it is shameful that Trump cannot see beyond this; rather than recognising the extent of the situation which called for such action, he only sees a potential threat to his own authority.
In an era where Twitter is the world’s political platform, it is refreshing to see how the cast of Hamilton were unafraid to voice their opinions publicly and respectfully. Besides, Mike Pence openly declared he ‘was not offended’. Surely then, this is just another case of Donald bulldozing his way through Twitter, just to make his presence heard yet again. Same old tricks Donald. It’s time for a new strategy now.
In an interview toward the end of the US election campaigns, Robert De Niro, legendary actor, described his desire to punch Donald Trump, future despotic tyrant, right in his orange face. If Robert ever gets round to it, I and every other liberal-thinking mind across the globe will leap for joy. The memes will be hilarious. But De Niro will also be rightly charged and convicted for assault. Despite the viral potential of such a move and our own political points of view, it would still be a reprehensible act.
On November 18th the cast of Hamilton broke an ethical code by calling out Mike Pence after that night’s show, making him the unwitting star of Saturday morning’s viral video. It was unfair to blindside him and thus force Pence into a no-win situation in the middle of a clearly anti-Trump audience. Hamilton’s hip-hop music and liberal politics would have hardly attracted the working-class demographic whose votes put Trump in office; indeed the seat from which the video was shot reportedly cost $449. This breach of the fourth wall has been condemned by performers such as E Street Band member Steve van Zandt, who felt it necessary to qualify his position through his anti-Trump beliefs. However I don’t see why van Zandt need be a Clinton supporter to have his opinion heard – as a performer, he is most qualified to decide whether the Hamilton cast’s opportunism went too far.
It is tempting to throw out measured perspective when dealing with people as unpleasant as Mike Pence, and even seems appropriate when those people are tearing up the rules of what is acceptable to say in the public sphere. However, it is in fractious times such as these that we can least afford to detach ourselves from an objective sense of ethical rights and wrongs.
(Image courtesy of Forbes)