I waited to write this until everybody calmed down.
Last week, Vice-President Elect Mike Pence, along with his daughter and her cousins, attended a performance of Hamilton: An American Musical on Broadway. To the best of my ability to piece it together from news stories and videos, here’s what happened.
At the show’s end, cast member Brandon Dixon, said the following:
“You know, we have a guest in the audience this evening. Vice-President-elect Pence, I see you walking out but I hope you hear just a few more moments.”
At this point, a few boos could be heard. I don’t know if they were booing Pence or booing Dixon. Pence apparently leaned to his kids and said “That’s what freedom sounds like.” He turned and politely listened to Dixon.
“There’s nothing to boo, ladies and gentlemen. There’s nothing to boo. We’re all here sharing a story of love. We have a message for you, sir. We hope that you will hear us out. And I encourage everybody to pull out your phones and tweet and post, because this message needs to be spread far and wide, OK? Vice-President-Elect Pence, 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 that this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and to work on behalf of all of us. All of us. Again, 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.”
Pence smiled, waved and left the theatre. Then, the storm of Trumps and Tweets and opinions began.
Everyone with a Facebook or Twitter account had an opinion, pro and con. It didn’t just go viral. It went pandemic for a few days. Dixon was either a hero or villain. In a loss of parental control to their errant child, the campaign staff of President-Elect Donald Trump returned his iPhone, and he immediately tweeted:
“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!”
And a later Trumptwit said:
“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!” (This statement was so wrong on at least three different levels but I don’t have time to break it down right now.)
Fox News was apoplectic. I counted five different anchors or pundits who repeatedly referred to Dixon’s words to the Vice-President-Elect as a “lecture,” and did so for several days.
There are 320 million people in this country and I think I heard the opinion of 319,999,999 of them. Finally, someone thought it might be enlightening to ask the Vice-President-Elect’s opinion. You know, to sort of get the opinion of the guy who was actually there and to whom Dixon’s words were addressed.
And here’s a collection of what Mike Pence had to say:
“I wasn’t offended by what was said…”
“My daughter and I and her cousins really enjoyed the show. ‘Hamilton’ is just an incredible production, incredibly talented people. It was a real joy to be there…”
So where does this leave us? Maybe it leaves us thinking we should think before we speak or opine. Or post. Or tweet. Take just a moment and re-read Dixon’s verbatim message to Pence. If I might be allowed to paraphrase, the message is pretty simple:
“We welcome you and thank you for being here. We are diverse. We are alarmed and anxious that you won’t protect us. But we hope you do. And we thank you again for being here.”
I’m not a fan of entertainers who voice their political opinions. These days, I usually turn off the Oscars because of it. I don’t like commercials when I go to the movie theatre. I know times have changed, but when I pay to be entertained, I’m not in the mood to be pitched. A good seat in a Broadway theatre costs several hundred dollars. It’s extremely difficult to come by a Hamilton ticket right now, so I suspect they are considerably higher. So I would have been considerably more irritated that somebody took my “entertainment” time and turned it into a “statement,” regardless of whether or not I agreed with it. That’s just the way I am.
But I believe I have the right to tell the Vice-President-Elect of the United States that I am alarmed and anxious. Or that I’m happy. Or that I think he’s doing either a great job or a poor job. And if I were searching for a polite and appropriate choice of words, I’d be hard pressed to find better words than Dixon’s.
It was not a “lecture.” It was neither offensive nor impolite. It was appropriate protest and I defend it, because I reserve my right to do the same thing.