“Apologise!” was president-elect Donald Trump’s conclusion of two messages he wrote to the cast of Hamilton, one of the most successful Broadway musicals in recent times. He was thus responding to the incident in which actor Brandon Victor Dixon, who plays former vice president Aaron Burr, addressed the audience of the show.
At the end of last Friday’s performance, noting that vice president-elect Mike Pence was in the audience, he used the opportunity to thank Pence for attending the show and told him: “We hope you will hear us out.”
Then Dixon added: “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. But 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. Again, we truly thank you for seeing this show, this wonderful American story told by a diverse group of men and women of different colours, creeds, and orientations.”
His words were followed by an enthusiastic applause and the cheers of those in attendance. Although Pence was leaving the theatre as Dixon began to read his statement, a show spokesperson said that Pence had waited in the hall outside the entrance to the theatre and heard the remarks. He made no comment and left the theatre.
Hamilton is a musical about the progress of Alexander Hamilton from his humble beginnings as an orphan immigrant who went on to become one of the founding fathers of the United States (US). Hamilton played a major role in the American Revolutionary War, and was an influential interpreter and promoter of the US constitution.
Mr. Trump, amid his heavy schedule of meeting potential candidates for key positions in his administration and using his favourite and, by many accounts, most lethal weapon, tweeted twice before 9am on Saturday. Trump accused the cast of Hamilton of “harassing” Pence with “cameras blazing”. He said: “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. Apologise!” Pence has a “0%” rating from the Human Rights Campaign, a civil rights organisation.
The incident with the musical brought to my mind a painfully ironic poem by Naomi Lazar. In the poem “Ordinance on Arrival” from her book Ordinances, Lazar wrote:
Welcome to you
who have managed to get here.
It’s has been a terrible trip;
You should be happy you have survived it.
Statistics prove that not many do.
You would like a bath, a hot meal,
a good night’s sleep. Some of you
need medical attention.
None of this is available.
These things have always been
in short supply; now
they are impossible to obtain.
This is not
a temporary situation;
it is permanent.
Our condolences on your disappointment.
It is not our responsibility
everything you have heard about this place
is false. It is not our fault
you have been deceived,
ruined your health getting here.
For reasons beyond our control
there is no vehicle out.
Cesar Chelala is a New York writer and an international public health consultant.