It’s funny how Alexander Hamilton can still get involved over contentious presidential elections more than 200 years after his death. The recent incident involves Mike Pence, (current Vice-President Elect) who was booed when he made a grand entrance into the theater where Hamilton: An American Musical was to be performed, based on the life of Alexander Hamilton, a Founding Father. This was followed by an impromptu message the cast had for Pence, expressing their concerns. Trump and his supporters became hostile, and took to social media to encourage people to boycott the show, and demanded an apology. While one can say it wasn’t pleasant, the simple fact is when you are a public figure and make an entrance (as in wave to the public as he did) then you will get either cheers or boos, and I doubt it was the first time it had ever happened, and won’t be the last either. As a public figure politicians and celebrities get jeered all of the time, and they must accept that. You can’t demand apologies each time someone does something you don’t approve of when it’s not illegal. That is called freedom of speech; the right to express your views freely, just as an audience may clap when they approve of something.
The controversy continued when the cast made their curtain call, and addressed Pence expressing their concerns, in line with the very nature of the play. Was that appropriate or was it free speech? I looked at some of the thousands of responses on the Facebook page of the musical, and one thing is clear; that the nation is truly divided. Let us look at what a play is—it is a form of expression from a combination of writers, producers, and actors who are conveying a message and their beliefs through the artistic medium. They do this via characters, plots, music, the lyrics, and the dialogue. A play is to entertain, but also to inspire and convey a message because a play needs to have a plot and story line. This one defines the life of a man who fought for the union of a country and freedom, and to prevent a dictator like George III from being in power. One could say that history is repeating itself.
For some, Alexander Hamilton may not be a name people are familiar with unless they have studied American history and politics, but he was a Founding Father and an adviser to George Washington. He helped devise the Electoral College as a check to prevent corrupt votes, as in the era it was developed, bribery and corruption was rife. On the other hand, he took advantage of the system and used his vote and influence in Congress to deny Aaron Burr the role of President over Thomas Jefferson who was the lesser of two evils—a situation many faced in the recent election. Burr blamed Hamilton for this, and after a protracted rivalry the duo ended up facing one another in an illegal duel where Hamilton lost his life, and ended Burr’s political career. One may hope another like Hamilton will intercede in the same way in the coming months.
Hamilton was a Federalist (one that promotes the Union and and the expansion of Federal power to protect those citizens where states abuse their powers), and his views would be along similar principles of the Democratic Party today. The names of the US political parties can be confusing as each has undergone what is called a ‘realignment’ where the party stance and policies have adapted to the era. The Republican Party under Abraham Lincoln is more aligned to the policies of the Democratic Party today (where the party fought for a Union), rather than the present day Republicans whose policies would choose to allow states to have more power. Therefore, a meme with Abraham Lincoln exclaiming he wouldn’t want to listen to a Democrat is historically incorrect, as today Lincoln would be deemed a Democrat.
Browsing through some of the comments made on Facebook, it’s clear the Trump supporters are misinformed, bordering on uneducated, and it’s a concern that they think that they are correct, even when they are shown facts. Some have been hypothesizing what Hamilton would have done, and if you know anything about the man, he would have been anti-Trump, and would have been delighted that a show in his name had been used as a platform to express concern, and was a right of freedom of speech.
- One claimed President Hamilton would have been disgusted at the cast. Well, Hamilton was never President, and he was an outspoken man who voiced his opinion even when it wasn’t appropriate. He wouldn’t have walked away.
- Others claim it was disrespectful, but a theater is a place where you choose to come, and you can walk out if you don’t like it. The speech was made after the show, and thus when the audience had finished watching the performance, thus didn’t impact the actual performance.
- Some performers say it was their right to make a comment, and other say it was out of order. A true actor and performer knows that the stage is their platform, and they had a right to use that stage how they wished. The audience had a choice to listen or leave. Pence left.
- It appears that many right wing posters only consider free speech to be valid when it is something they wish to hear or agree with, but the concept of free speech is to accept other opinions and beliefs as valid, regardless of whether you agree with them or not.
- Those who oppose the message that the cast relayed are encouraging people to boycott the show and hope it fails. That is hate speak, and narrow-minded.
- Pence has spoken, and the incident didn’t offend him and told his daughter when booed, “that’s what freedom sounds like,” (I’m sure he has had worse). If it didn’t bother him, it doesn’t matter what Trump or the other haters think. They are entitled to an opinion, but if Pence isn’t fazed then why are others making such a fuss?
In some ways, social media is the real voice of ‘the people’ and these figures (in relation to the statement read out) speak for themselves. Perhaps the moaners and groaners are those who don’t value free speech, who don’t understand the role of the arts, and have way too much time on their hands. Out of the 114K reactions 81K liked what the cast said, 30K loved it and 1.6K (minority) disapproved. This is the real America speaking now.
TLDR; Pence took the boos on the chin as part of the job, but Trump and other supporters thought it was wrong and bad mouthed the show and demanded an apology (but Pence didn’t—no apology needed). End game, when you are a public figure you will get boos and cheers and need to accept it as Pence did.
The cast used their own stage as a platform after the performance to rely a message of concern, and this didn’t impinge the audience as they had already seen the show and were free to leave. It appears some Trump voters didn’t like it and want to silence anyone that doesn’t say what they want to hear, and that isn’t in the spirit of free speech, a right that all Americans have. Others have applauded the cast for speaking for the people. Either way, the real voices of Americans was heard, and that is called freedom of speech.