SAN DIEGO – Other than that, Mr. Pence, how did you enjoy the play?
Vice President-elect Mike Pence did really seem to enjoy his recent night out on the town in New York, where he took in the hit musical “Hamilton” – while taking some hits of his own.
“It was a real joy to be there,” Pence said during an appearance on “Fox News Sunday.” “When we arrived, we heard … a few boos and we heard some cheers and I nudged my kids and reminded them, that’s what freedom sounds like.”
Pence – who attended the performance with his daughter, nieces and nephew – declared the show “incredible” and the cast “incredibly talented.”
The cast was also incredibly condescending, presumptuous and self-righteous with an itch to dabble in political punditry. In these bizarre times, many entertainers – both liberal and conservative – seem convinced that the rest of us wait with bated breath to hear what they have to say about everything.
Here’s what “Hamilton” actor Brandon Victor Dixon had to say to Pence as he and family members were exiting the theater, in a statement reportedly written by creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, among others:
“Vice President-elect Pence, we welcome you and we truly thank you for joining us. … 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.”
Really. “Alarmed and anxious” based on what? The fact that the cast is presumably made up of New York liberals who supported Hillary Clinton only to have their preference “trumped” by working-class white voters in Ohio, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania?
Besides, don’t these actors know anything about how politicians often pivot once they’re in office? Barack Obama said one thing as a candidate – on education, immigration, the war on terror, civil liberties, Guantanamo Bay, etc. – and did something else as president. Why assume that President-elect Donald Trump won’t do the same?
Then came the worst part.
“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,” Dixon said. “We truly thank you for seeing this show – this wonderful American story told by a diverse group of men and women, of different colors, creeds and orientations.”
This business about how it falls to a musical to “inspire” someone like Pence – who has a long career in public service – to fulfill his oath is a bit too much to stomach. Apparently Trump isn’t the only narcissist in Manhattan. The “Hamilton” cast forgot the first rule of any performance: When you take the stage, you’re up there for the benefit of the audience, not the other way around.
Still, Pence is a class act. He told host Chris Wallace that he “wasn’t offended by what was said” and would “leave to others to decide whether that was the appropriate venue to say it.”
Fine. This was most certainly not the appropriate venue for this lecture.
It’s not that I agree with Donald Trump, who took umbrage at the stunt and declared that “the theatre must always be a safe and special place.”
That’s silly. Republicans can’t mock college students for demanding a “safe space” on campus to process election results and then say that elected officials should have a safe space on Broadway.
It’s more that I agree with musician and actor Steven Van Zandt. He struck precisely the right note in criticizing the “Hamilton” harangue in a series of tweets. For him, this is about etiquette, hospitality and the sacred relationship between performer and audience. Van Zandt called the statement “beautiful” but “completely inappropriate at that time.”
“It was the most respectful, benign form of bullying ever. But bullying nonetheless,” Van Zandt wrote.
He continued: “When artists perform, the venue becomes your home. The audience are your guests. It’s taking unfair advantage of someone who thought they were a protected guest in your home. … A guy comes to a Broadway show for a relaxing night out. Instead he gets a lecture from the stage!”
And finally, Van Zandt wrote that Dixon’s worried assumption “may prove to be correct for these men in their new positions … but that doesn’t mean we have to lose our civility.”
For a country that seems even more divided now than it was before the election, that message should be music to our ears.
Ruben Navarrette’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.