‘Aaron Burr’ just couldn’t follow his own advice with Pence

“Hamilton” actor Brandon Victor Dixon, who plays Aaron Burr, did not take to heart the advice his character gives the young Hamilton:

While we’re talking, let me offer you some free advice:

Talk less…

Smile more…

Don’t let them know what you’re against or what you’re for…

If he had been the real Burr, he would not have singled out his successor-elect, Mike Pence, for embarrassment after the show the other night.

A lot of people who are as distressed over the election results as I am think it was great for Dixon to deliver this message from the stage to Pence, who was in the audience:

“You know, we have a guest in the audience this evening,” he said to audience hoots and laughter. “And Vice President-elect Pence, I see you walking out, but I hope you will hear us just a few more moments. There’s nothing to boo here, ladies and gentlemen. There’s nothing to boo here. We’re all here sharing a story of love. We have a message for you, sir. We hope that you will hear us out.”

As he pulled a small piece of paper from his pocket, Dixon encouraged people to record and share what he was about to say, “because this message needs to be spread far and wide.” The cast, in their 18th-century costumes, and the crew, in jeans and T-shirts, linked arms and hands behind Dixon….

“Vice President-elect Pence, we welcome you, and we truly thank you for joining us here at ‘Hamilton: An American Musical.’ We really do,” Dixon said to further applause. “We, sir, we are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us . . .”

The audience erupted in cheers again. “Again, we truly thank you for sharing this show, this wonderful American story told by a diverse group of men and women of different colors, creeds and orientations.”

As I say, some thought it was great. I did not. It seemed tacky, gauche, not the proper place. The man in the audience was a guest, and did not come to harangue anyone — or to be harangued.

It’s not that the actor was hostile or cruel or anything like that. He wasn’t inciting anything; he was just saying, We’re all pretty upset your ticket got elected, so please reassure us by your actions. Which is the sort of thing I myself might say to Pence were I to run into him and be introduced. But of course, that’s a different dynamic from singling someone out of a crowd.

Nor did Pence mind, or so he says. (as to what Trump thought, which we learned all about when he launched him on another of his childish rants, I address that in a comment below.) And I get that the cast and crew didn’t want to throw away their shot. But it just didn’t seem the place. I’d have felt terribly awkward had I been there. I feel awkward just hearing about it, especially since, as I am so dismayed at the election result — because of Trump, remember, not Pence — this gaucherie was committed by someone who agrees with me on that point. That makes me feel responsible.

So I thought I’d say something…

One more thought: One would think that everything the cast and crew wanted to say — about “diversity,” about the value of immigrants, about fundamental rights — had already been said, beautifully and creatively, by the play they had just performed. And since Pence had come to hear it, it seems to me that the message had been delivered, by the masterpiece it took Lin-Manuel Miranda seven years to write, far better than a hastily-penned speech could do.

The only thing the little speech said that the play did not was, Yo, Mike Pence — we see you out there — yeah, you. And we’ve got a problem with you.

And that’s the bit that seemed to me unnecessary.

If they wanted to acknowledge Pence, the stage manager could have stepped onto the stage before the show to say, We have a special guest in the audience tonight, vice president-elect Mike Pence. Mr. Pence, we hope you enjoy the show, take it to heart, and go forth inspired. We hope you all do.

That would have been appropriate…

22 thoughts on “‘Aaron Burr’ just couldn’t follow his own advice with Pence

  1. Bart

    A very close friend who is about as liberal as one can be and I had a disagreement about the timing and locale to deliver the message to Pence. Based on several different reports, one had the cast member and cast delivering the message to Pence while he was in an exit corridor but this clears it up and once again, I totally disagree with the timing and locale. The message is another matter altogether and if the cast members wanted to deliver it in a manner that would have invited Pence to address their message and concerns, they could have invited him to stay if he had time and meet with them privately.

    But no, they had to do it in front of the audience which was definitely not Pence friendly and while Pence had his daughter and others with him. Even with the way the comments were worded, it was still inappropriate just as it was inappropriate for our “esteemed” member of the House to shout out from the chamber when Obama was speaking, “you lie”. That was an embarrassment and if anything, he owed Obama, the American people, and the people of the state of SC a very public apology for being a total jackass while the President was speaking.

    Common courtesy and consideration for everyone, not just the ones we like or admire but even to the ones we have major differences with should be a natural instinct for people who are civilized and appreciate good manners and hospitality to everyone we meet. My friend said Pence didn’t deserve a pass because of his position on the LGBT issue while he was governor of Indiana and because of his passion and commitment to the pursuit of happiness, the cast was entitled to confront Pence in a public setting. I guess I misjudged my friend and will give serious consideration before engaging him in another conversation about politics.

    I don’t like or dislike Hillary Clinton or Trump but if I have a grievance and want to let either one know and given the opportunity to confront either in a public place with an audience, I would defer until I could present my concerns face to face in private and away from the public eye. Not being a “shrinking violet” or intimidated by celebrities, politicians, or sports figures, if I believed I needed to voice my opinion or deliver a message, it certainly wouldn’t be from a stage or gallery and embarrass myself, other members of the audience or the American people.

    Even though Obama can deliver some pointed stingers and remarks, overall he epitomizes what civility is when speaking to an audience and if he is confronted, he handles the situation the best way he can and usually it is with humor but I do not recall one time when he singled out any one individual to humiliate or chastise them in public. And knowing bud has a strong opinion about GWB, he was the same way. And even Obama has praised GWB for his gracious and friendly attitude and manner during the transition period and he acknowledged that Bush never made any public remarks or tried to interfere with him during his 8 years in office.

    However, I am very uncertain about Trump and how he will react to criticism and if he will be up at 3:00 am Tweeting about something someone said about him or criticized a decision he made. Personally, I don’t believe he will change and we can probably expect the rebuttal Tweets on a daily basis.

  2. Mark Stewart

    It wasn’t the smoothest move, certainly.

    However, I am much more concerned about Trump’s, well, everything. From his childish petulance to his global conflicts of interest and total unwillingness to assume the responsibility to be President – to put that role before all else for the duration.

    We thought this was bad; yet I grow more confident that Trump is likely to be the first President impeached by his own party.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      That does seem like a distinct possibility. Of course, it presupposes extraordinary courage and probity on the part of the membership of Congress…

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          Yes, he will have.

          But remember, congressional Republicans are TERRIFIED of the elements of their base that elected Trump.

          He would have to lose his popularity with that mob for them to have the courage to move to be rid of him. And frankly, given that nothing he has done so far has pushed them away — which remains utterly and completely astounding — I can’t imagine what might do so.

          You might say, “They’ll tire of him.” Really? If they didn’t get sick of him at any time in the past year, how is it likely to happen in the future?

          1. bud

            … congressional Republicans are TERRIFIED of the elements of their base that elected Trump.

            Terrified? Really? The GOP has been catering to these alt-right dudes for at least a decade. They’ve just done so subtly. Dude Trump IS the Republican party. His base IS the Republican base. You act like Trump became the Republican nominee by virtue of a bunch of space aliens swooping down to vote for Trump. Brad I’m afraid you’re just in denial. Trump is both the face of and the reality of the Republican party. People like Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush are the fringe outsiders at this point.

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              “Trump became the Republican nominee by virtue of a bunch of space aliens swooping down to vote for Trump…”

              FINALLY, somebody comes up with an explanation that fits the available facts! 🙂

  3. Brad Warthen Post author

    By the way, to be entirely clear — the actors’ gesture, while problematic, was far less so than Trump’s obsessive response.

    Such lashing out by a man just elected to be president of the United States is far more worrisome than what an actor says on a stage on Broadway.

    So when I said parenthetically above that “I don’t care” about Trump’s response, that wasn’t really accurate. I care, a lot. I just don’t know what can be said or done about it. This is the guy that the nation just elected, knowing full well that this is exactly who he is.

    So I changed the wording above…

  4. Norm Ivey

    I get that calling Pence out with his family present was uncouth, but I also know that Pence’s record causes some people a genuine concern about how they may be treated. When would these actors ever have another opportunity to express their concern in such a way that they know they will be heard? I don’t have a problem with what they did–it’s just another form of petitioning for redress of grievances.

    MAD has a nice take on Trump’s responses.

    1. Bill

      Yes, or as it’s also called: speaking truth to power. Which some people, including here, seem not to appreciate.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Assuming, of course, that he really MEANT to kill Hamilton, and that this wasn’t a Maturin-vs.-Canning situation, in which Stephen TRIED to miss, but missed…

  5. bud

    It was an extremely tame message to a truly disgusting individual who has openly tried to deny gay people their basic humanity. Not sure what the problem is. Everyone is way over thinking this. Far worse was Trump’s tweet storm. The man just cannot let even the tiniest alleged slight go.

  6. Mark Stewart

    As an interesting counter-point today; the Pope granted all priests the right to “forgive” abortion. Is acceptance of gays next?

    And so where does this leave guys like Pence?

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Ummm… that doesn’t sound right. Surely priests were always authorized to do that…

      Well, I just looked it up and it is indeed a thing. I didn’t know…

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        OK, I read some more and now I’m even more confused…

        Apparently, priests have had that power since 1983. I would have thought they had it before that, but hey, I’ve only been a Catholic since 1981, and it happened at about the time the pope was shot. Also, the priest who guided me through my conversion was shot and KILLED the same week the pope was wounded (it made national news because people thought it was a copy cat, but it was just this hyperviolent criminal who had earlier overpowered a cop and killed him with his own gun, and this was just a continuation of that spree…)

        Anyway, I don’t know where I was going with that, except to say I didn’t hear about any of that back at the time…

    2. Bryan Caskey

      I thought priests could forgive any sins. My understanding of Christianity is that sins can be forgiven, but I’m a Presbyterian, not a Catholic.

      “The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him.” Daniel 9:9

      “Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” Isaiah 1:18

      Is this just some sort of administrative thing with the Catholic church?

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Yeah. Kind of legalistic. I had never heard of it. And apparently there wasn’t a problem, since as I read that, priests have been doing this since 1983. I think this is just another case of Francis making gestures to make the Church sound more open and forgiving, even though he’s not changing anything. He does that a lot, and I honor him for it. He’s not changing anything, just putting a friendlier face on things, to break down the barriers a lot of people have in their minds toward the Church.

        Of course, you’ll note in the instances from Stricture that you cite that it is GOD forgiving our sins, not men. If you’ll recall, the scribes called Jesus a blasphemer for daring to forgive sins himself:

        2 And there people brought to him a paralytic lying on a stretcher. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Courage, child, your sins are forgiven.”b
        3 At that, some of the scribes* said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.”
        4 Jesus knew what they were thinking, and said, “Why do you harbor evil thoughts?
        5 Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’?
        6 * But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic, “Rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home.”c
        7 He rose and went home.

        There’s also this incident:

        49 The others at table said to themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”

        Someone who’s a better Bible scholar than I (a Baptist, perhaps) can probably address the extent to which Jesus delegated that same power to his followers. All I’m finding is that he gave them the power to heal — and as he noted above in the passage from Matthew, that’s harder than forgiving sins.

        The only person I specifically recall him handing such power to — the power to bind and loose on Earth and in Heaven, which suggests to me the power to forgive sins, although theologians will likely refute me — was Peter, the first pope.

        Seems to me that I’ve heard Protestants express strong objections to the whole process of Catholics confessing their sins to priests and having them forgiven, citing their direct line to God. Well, we all have direct lines to God, however benighted Protestants may think we Papists are. But let’s not get into that…

        My point is that to many, priests forgiving sins at all is problematic…

        1. Bryan Caskey

          Well, yeah. As a protestant, I deal with God’s forgiveness of my sins directly with God.

          Having said that, I’m sure there’s a cathartic, practical benefit to confessing your sins to another human being who you have to look in the eye. It probably helps with enforcing some repentance and preventing the person from committing the sin again. When you know you have to go back and look your priest in the eye, I’m sure you don’t want to have to confess to doing that same sin again. So I would say there’s some “accountability” there, in a good way. However, I would still say that God absolves the sin of everyone, including you papists.

          I chalk it up to the fact that y’all have a ritual for everything, and I see confession to a priest as a symbolic ritual that has both deeper meaning and practical application. It can certainly go off the rails when the ritual becomes less of a symbol, and more corrupted, as happened back in the medieval times when indulgences were abused.

          Having said all that, I don’t know anything about how Catholics view confession, but that’s sort of how I see it as an outsider.

        2. Mark Stewart

          Umm, since when did abortion become a sin? The idea that medical procedures are sinful went out, oh, about 1500 or so, no?

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