The American Dream vs. The American Reality

On Friday, 18 November, Vice Presidential Elect Mike Pence attended the popular musical, Hamilton only to receive an unlikely call to action. Being known for his oppressive and conservative social platforms, Pence was welcomed with a symphony of ‘boos’ as he entered the theatre. After the results of the 8th of November presidential election, the American people are in fear of the new Trump administration and its hard policies on immigration and potential infringement on civil liberties. Being that Hamilton is a musical summarizing the importance of Americans to pull themselves together as a country and embrace the freedoms and rights of all, it only seemed fitting the cast make a statement regarding the special guest amongst them. After curtain call, one of lead actors playing Aaron Burr, Brandon Victor Dixon, read a letter from the cast stating, ‘We, sir, 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.’ While listening to this, Pence was so surprised he had to excuse himself from the theatre, only hearing the last of Dixon’s remarks while in the hallway. The diverse reactions of Trump and Pence to the casts’ statements truly shed light on the administration that will run the future America.

Image courtesy of Travis Wise © 2016, some rights reserved.
Image courtesy of Travis Wise © 2016, some rights reserved.

Mike Pence, being known as the ultra-conservative Indiana governor, has supported past policies that drive fear and lack of faith in his ability to maintain individual liberties as Vice President of the United States. Growing up as a Democrat, Pence was inspired by the policies and administration of Ronald Reagan, becoming a ‘born again Christian’ and the ultra-conservative Republican he is today. Pushing legislation in Indiana such as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law in 2015, he allowed businesses to openly discriminate against customers due to their sexual orientation. Past policy records and laws such as this create a worry amongst people: a worry for their safety and a worry for the protection of their rights. By buying tickets to see Hamilton, a play about building America up and suppressing the fear and resistance towards innovation and progression, it seems only fitting the cast made a statement and call for action directed at Pence. This election has caused more commotion and controversy than most people can recollect in their lifetime. The cast of Hamilton represents America: people of different ethnicities, colours, and sexual orientations. All these diverse people coming together to perform and embrace a musical about the founding America seems almost the perfect time to express their fears and concerns in a polite, justified manner.

While Trump reacted ‘combatively’ to the statement, Pence’s reaction was ‘conciliatory.’ Trump’s reaction to the Dixon letter came a day later with his out lash via Twitter stating, ’Our wonderful future V.P. Mike Pence was harassed last night at the theatre by the cast of Hamilton, cameras blazing. This should not happen! The theatre 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!’ While Trump claims this letter read was, ‘rude‘ and an ’embarrassment,’ Pence came forward stating, ‘I nudged my kids and reminded them that’s what freedom sounds like.’ While Trump saw this call for action as an act of ’harassment‘ Pence had a different approach. Pence stated on CBS news, ‘I just want to reassure anyone, anyone, including the actor who spoke that night, that President-elect Donald Trump is going to be president for all people.’ This radically different reaction begins to showcase how the new administration will be run. Though Pence is lacking many qualities, he is indeed level headed, and his response shows a hope for collaboration, and respect in terms of policy debate and future legislative proposals; he respects the power of public speech. Trump on the other hand, has come back with a radical, unjustified response, wrongly calling the actions of the cast as acts of ’harassment.’ As defined by the American Civil Liberties Union, harassment can be any behaviour ‘written, verbal, electronic, or physical directed at an individual or group based on a characteristic – such as race, gender, or sexual orientation.’ The casts’ statements were not at all malicious or meant to attack Pence, but merely to express their concern and worries and let him know the world is watching. If anything, Trump himself is being the harasser by hounding these cast members to apologise for exercising worries and fears regarding their individual rights due to race, gender, and sexual orientation.

These reactions have rallied supporters on both sides of the isle, only adding to the political chaos currently occurring in the U.S. Provoked by telling demonstration of Alexander Hamilton and Marquis de Lafayette high-fiving each other as they sang the line of a song: ‘Immigrants, we get the job done,’ many activists, journalists, and politicians took to Twitter expressing their views on the events of the 18th of November Hamilton performance. ‘You know what’s worse than getting booed? Every single thing Mike Pence stands for.’ John Aravosis, an LGBT advocate tweeted. Similarly, New York Times reporter Dave Itzkoff wrote ‘Pence getting booed at Hamilton bums me out. Whatever you think of him. He’s trying to engage. Could get ideas from far worse places.’ Other reactions such as the hashtag on twitter #BoycottHamilton has begun to trend due to the push from Trump supporters to boycott the musical in response to their ’disrespect‘ to the administration.

Overall, the statements made during the musical should not be brushed aside or taken lightly. The American people are terrified, anxious, and are in need of guidance and unity more than ever. While the many protests outside the D.C Capital, on college campuses, or even via the internet have proved to accurately garner attention and express the concern and worry experienced by all, the statements made by the cast of Hamilton truly represents all America stands for, a country built on equality, autonomy, liberty, and justice. Hopefully this uneasiness and uncertainty of the future will be assuaged by the transformation of policy to include the rights and liberties of all people. Pence, take the wakeup call.

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