Moving forward from the tumultuous 2016 Presidential Election, feelings of uncertainty and tension continue to grip the country. The realm of the theater may not come to mind when one thinks of political protest, but like any other form of entertainment, there is always a place for politics. On Nov. 18, the cast of “Hamilton” was notified that Vice President-elect Mike Pence was in attendance for the show and they decided to speak their mind. In a simple, yet poignant speech, cast member Brandon Dixon made a plea to Pence, hoping that his words may have some slight changing effect on the controversial politician. Dixon’s actions were reasonable and justified, especially considering the vitriolic comments that dominated the election season. However, in the aftermath of the cast’s actions, President-elect Donald Trump took to his Twitter account and demanded that the cast make an apology, saying that their words acted as harassment to Pence.
The language of the election was direct, forceful and emotional. The encouragement from the media made it easy for people to get swept into the hate and to conveniently forget the importance of listening, as well as holding rational debates. To see the “Hamilton” cast use diplomatic and polite language to express their concerns is a welcome change from the unfortunate trend.
While it may be easy to think that their words had malice and that the cast was disrespectful to the vice president-elect, there remains one simple fact: their speech was civil dissent, not malicious harassment. In our modern political system, elected officials work for the people and if the people have a concern, they may express it. The cast crafted a speech that eloquently spoke of the value that comes from diversity and acceptance, and as the vice president-elect, Pence will have the responsibility of working for all of the American citizens.
Interestingly enough, Pence responded as to whether or not he felt harassed by the cast’s speech in another moment of civil communication. During an interview on “Fox News Sunday,” Pence said that he did not feel offended or harassed by the cast’s comments. In comparison, Trump took the speech as an insult to Pence. It is ironic to see the president-elect demanding a safe space for his running mate, when most of his platform rested on discrimination and insults.
Trump’s perspective is hypocritical and it acts as a far cry from his bully-like debate mentality. Part of the Trump campaign’s success was derived from aggressively marginalizing several American demographics, but now the president-elect, himself refuses to properly handle scrutiny. Also, to quickly attack a Broadway cast for peacefully expressing their concerns to an elected official showcases the lack of empathy that has dominated our media communication recently. Trump’s comments clash against Pence’s own words and they hint at the sensitivity and drama that may come with the former’s presidency.
As American citizens, we have the right to protest and express our opinions, so long as those acts do not infringe upon the rights and well-being of others. The cast of “Hamilton” did not disrespect or attack Pence in any way, and they certainly do not owe him an apology for expressing their fears. If we can return to a system of civil discourse that emphasizes understanding and rational debate, then the tension and unease currently affecting our politics will gradually diminish.