I love the Broadway hit Hamilton. I think the music is amazing. My husband surprised me with tickets last summer for our anniversary, and it was worth every ridiculous penny he paid for them.
You see, I teach US History. I owned the Ron Chernow biography that inspired Lin-Manuel Miranda to write his ode to Alexander long before he performed that first rap at the White House that was really the first step in birthing his wildly wonderful production.
If having the Founding Fathers represented by an array of minorities allows more kids to access the past, I’m okay with that, too. I understand how the country’s complexion has changed, and it was never been about complexion anyway. It’s always been about the ideas, which kids hear somehow when spun out in rap.
Furthermore, I was horrified when the Treasury wished to remove their first secretary off his rightful place on the $10 bill, and I believe it is only because of this musical that Hamilton was transformed in the public mind from another “dead white man” who deserves to be forgotten in a brave new world into someone to be honored for his incredible contributions to our country.
I mean, though I hate the “dead white man” trope, it exists. This is a way to kneecap it completely.
For all of this very real good that I see in Hamilton, I was bothered when a friend sent me a text last night that said Pence was being booed by the audience in New York.
First, I know how much those seats cost. There is not a person in that group who is not part of an elite of some sort. They are the least oppressed people on the planet. Seriously. Least oppressed.
Second, I can’t imagine that even in New York, there are not Trump voters in that audience who paid their money, too, and just wanted to see the show without feeling as if their own political choices were being assaulted.
Third, it’s just rude to boo someone in a theatre. Seriously rude.
Anyway, after the show, during the curtain call, the cast decided to send out another message.
The man currently playing Hamilton read a note to Pence. It started out well enough.
He said the vice president was welcome at the show… (like, you know, anyone who can afford to spend as much on two hours of entertainment as most people pay for rent.)
However… (here’s where it goes wonky)… he hoped that Pence would understand the diverse group of actors were frightened by the Trump administration. (Frightened? Of what exactly?)
American values are for everyone, he said, and Pence should honor them.
The audience went as wild as people at a football game.
I’m sure this actor felt he was being courageous in some way, but this was not courage. He gave a lecture to a mild mannered guy from the Midwest who just won the support of more than 60 million other Americans… not Hitler. This was also in a room with an audience completely on his side.
Most tragic of all, this was an opportunity lost.
Though the real Alexander Hamilton could sometimes let his emotions push his actions, he was at heart a politician who understood power, and I think he would have placed his words with more care.
It would have been a million times better if the cast had rebuked the audience for their classless behavior… not Pence. It would have been amazing if they had said they were glad that he was there, and they understood our great country has a diversity of opinions… ideas. They knew from their own script that politics was a bruising endeavor, but they hoped for a united America moving forward.
Instead, they really did make it about complexion alone. And grandstanding. Which is a shame.
I’ll hold my applause this time.