So, this happened. In the span of one weekend, we’ve seen a role-reversal in America. Those who mocked protestors and college kids needing therapy following the election have proven that they are equally sensitive about words…uttered from actors…on a stage. The media and right-wing blogs were quick to feed the mania with misleading headlines and mock outrage. When the fight was taken up on social media, the #BoycottHamilton movement was born.
Curtain Call or Call-Out?
First, some background. On Friday night, Vice-President Elect Mike Pence took in a Broadway show. Not just any show, but Hamilton: a modern hip-hop retelling of the story of Alexander Hamilton with a diverse cast (Aaron Burr is black). It is one of the most popular shows on the Great White Way, with performances sold out a year in advance.
Pence had already been booed and jeered by the audience upon his arrival. Remember, New York City has been one of the epicenters of the protests against Trump’s election, so that isn’t surprising. When trying to slip out after the final curtain call, he was asked to stop by the assembled cast on stage so they could deliver a message to him. It didn’t take long for the media to “report” on the incident and for reaction to hit social media.
Trump Supporters Go Bonkers
Twitter erupted, with #Hamilton and #BoycottHamilton trending within hours. Even the President-Elect himself took to the forum to demand that the cast apologize. #BoycottHamilton was a top trending topic through most of Saturday, and into Sunday. Detractors were quick to point out that boycotting a show sold out a year in advance was futile, but that is beside the point. What are they reacting to? Why exactly should Americans and tourists #BoycottHamilton? Let’s read the text of the speech delivered from the stage:
Thank you so much for joining us tonight. You know, we had a guest in the audience this evening. And Vice President-elect Pence, I see you’re walking out but I hope you will hear us just a few more moments. There’s nothing to boo here ladies and gentlemen. There’s nothing to boo here, 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.
Now, they must have embarrassed him by not using his title, right? Wrong, he was addressed respectfully as Vice-president-elect. So they disparaged him by not treating his with respect? Well, they said “sir” three times. So they got the crowd fired up? No, they actually stopped them from booing twice; something the audience had already previously engaged in. Was it the way it was delivered? Watch the video and see for yourself:
A Snowflake By Any Other Name…
If this is what Trump supporters are all up in arms about, then perhaps they should rethink calling college kids and protesters “snowflakes.”
If the cast of Hamilton wanted to humiliate the Vice-President-elect, they could have. On stage in front of a largely sympathetic crowd, the actors could have said almost anything, and much of it wouldn’t have been nice. They could have evoked the same “racist, sexist, xenophobe, homophobic” narrative that has been pushed for months. They could have called him a fraud, or a bully, or worse. Maybe that would be a reason to #BoycottHamilton. Instead, they chose measured, respectful words and articulated them well.
Now, a case can be made that such an address was inappropriate to begin with, and according to Broadway historians in a Daily News article, that kind of action is unprecedented. Regardless, it’s a stretch to believe there was malice in any of those words. The cast has legitimate concerns, as do minority communities across our nation. Whether or not those concerns are unfounded is something time and policy will dictate. But for now, some of our fellow Americans are living in fear, and those fears are being expressed. They should also be addressed.
#BoycottHamilton and the Nature of Hypocrisy
Instead, the reaction was the same one that Trump supporters decry the left for. The #BoycottHamilton crowd is throwing the same temper tantrum that they characterize Hillary supporters of having. Fueled by a media that has no interest in healing a divided nation, the cries of outrage have only grown louder. Instead of seizing the opportunity to tamp down the furor and begin to change the narrative about him and his campaign, President-Elect Trump demanded the cast apologize in a series of tweets.
Apparently, sensitivity to words is not something reserved for liberals, despite what Trump supporters want the world to believe. All #BoycottHamilton has proven is that there is a fair number of conservatives who need a safe space as well. Sure, the cast’s words can be considered a lecture from a liberal production of a man (Alexander Hamilton) who can be considered the antithesis of everything Trump stands for. Or it can be considered as it was intended – a message to the new administration to remind them to uphold the pledge Donald Trump made on election night: to be a president for ALL Americans.
If you’re throwing in with the #BoycottHamilton crowd, you’re being a hypocrite. Stop calling Hillary supporters “snowflakes.” Quit moaning about post-election protests, because you are doing the same thing in reverse. That goes for the rough and tumble President-Elect himself, who in rushing to Pence’s defense, missed an opportunity heal the divide.
One Last Little Irony
The only opinion that really matters when it comes to what the cast of Hamilton said is Mike Pence’s. After all, it was to him the comment was directed at. He should be the one to tell the world of his humiliation and embarrassment, right?
Vice President-elect Mike Pence said the boos he faced at the Broadway production of “Hamilton” were “what freedom sounds like.” CNN
Kudos to the incoming vice-president, he gets it. Pence continued on “Fox News Sunday,” saying “I did hear what was said from the stage. I can tell you I wasn’t offended by what was said. I will leave to others whether that was the appropriate venue to say it.”
He probably should have said this yesterday and saved me all this writing. Oh, and one more thing, #BoycottHamilton crusaders: Pence also heaped praise for the musical to host Chris Wallace and encouraged others to see it, saying that he enjoyed the show.
Let’s all get back to the conversations that really matter in this country. It’s not about harassment at a Broadway show – it’s about whether they have a point.