“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." (Preamble to the U.S. Declaration of Independence)
Last week, the social media got to me. I became for a time, really incensed, angry.
As a believer in the principles set forth in the Preamble to our Declaration of Independence, I find the burgeoning rhetoric of white nationalism quite disturbing. We have an unrepentant “platform” provider for white nationalistic rhetoric as the newly appointed Chief Strategist for our President elect. The extent to which the Chief Strategist believes the rhetoric, nobody really knows. In any case, the code words of the movement are beginning to infect the language of public discourse like a virus.
White nationalism’s fundamental premise is that our nation should allow the creation of “Euro-ethnic” enclaves as a matter of “freedom” for those who hold a “white Euro-ethnic” identity. That premise carries with it a fundamental belief in the creation of an inevitable and “beneficial” (for the white nationals only) prospect of an ethnically cleansed region in the U.S. The last time we had serious white nationalism take hold in a significant part of the country things did not end well for the white nationalists whose whole region was devastated with great vengeance.
Ultimately, over the 151 years since that conflict ended, the American People have made great progress toward forming a society under a mostly ethno-neutral and, increasingly, also a gender-identity neutral government and polity.
White nationalism is a rejection of the ethno-neutral state focused on the guarantee of human rights for all of its inhabitants and the broader world that has been evolving since the beginning of the American experiment. It is very easy to adopt white nationalism because it is a rejection of the need to get along with others who are different and it feels good to be superior to them. The ideology requires little effort and almost no study to be good at it. Shouting racist slogans and making others uncomfortable is even fun for some. Today, the idea has real appeal to those who have little accomplishment.
Our culture has moved from slavery in the 1600s to racial integration and acceptance of gay marriage. More so in the urban areas than in the exurbs and rural areas where there is less of the "lots going on" of urban life and less interaction with the wonderful mosaic of diversity. Now, for the first time in generations, that progress towards neutrality appears to be at issue. Many find this frightening, other find it good, exciting, and novel.
On November 18, Mr. Pence, an expresser of extreme anti-gay rhetoric to say the least, attended a performance of Hamilton performed by a varied ethnic and sexually-oriented cast. Some in the audience booed when he entered. Others cheered.
After the performance ended, the cast made a simple petition to the Vice President Elect: “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,” he said. “We truly hope that this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and to work on behalf of all of us.”
The Constitution of the United States formed a government in peculiar form that initially had no real provisions as to how the rights of the citizens were to be structured and protected. To do that, in March 1789, the Congress adopted the Bill of Rights for the purpose set forth in its Preamble;
“THE Conventions of a number of the States, having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added: And as extending the ground of public confidence in the Government, will best ensure the beneficent ends of its institution.” http://www.legendsofamerica.com/ah-billrights.html
While most are familiar with the First Amendment, many readers of this Committee of Correspondence may not be fully familiar with its exact text that states: “Amendment I. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
The Hamilton actors’ petition for protection, made to an elected, sitting governor of Indiana and Vice President Elect of the United States was wholly within the tradition of the New York stage. It was a First Amendment petition in classic format.
For generations actors have made political statements and pleas to the audience and the broader public during their performances in the Theater District. It is the premier venue for safe expression of meaningful free speech on all sort of issues. The audiences have expressed their opinions with boos as well as cheers. The fundamental purpose of theater is free speech to make some point.
The Vice President responded gracefully and respectfully to the cast’s plea for protection by hearing out the oration without giving a comment and leaving in a dignified and appropriate way. Since then, he has commented wisely.
Then, a most inspiring series of events began to explode in the social media—free speech! An imbroglio of competing ideas and expressions of values flowered like a spectacle of Fourth of July fireworks.
The President Elect chimed in with his Tweet, “Our wonderful future V.P. Mike Pence was harassed last night at the theater by the cast of Hamilton, cameras blazing. This should not happen!” Then later, “The Theater must always be a safe and special place. The cast of Hamilton was very rude last night to a very good man, Mike Pence. Apologize!” And doubling down in another Tweet, “The cast and producers of Hamilton, which I hear is highly overrated, should immediately apologize to Mike Pence for their terrible behavior.”
Following this, the massive, and surprising equally sized expression of our cultural divide came forth like a torrent. On one side, the Hamilton actors were praised and on the other, they were condemned for showing “disrespect” to Pence. Some of my right wing Facebook friends parroted Trumps tweets, some quite viciously.
Personally, I was incensed by Trump’s statement. In my mind, the test as to whether a person believes in free speech and personal liberty comes at a time when free speech bites them. The test is whether the person bitten attacks the ideas expressed while affirming the right to speak or attacks the act of expression itself. Those of you who live under authoritarian regimes really understand the truthfulness of the Freedom Test.
My interpretation of what the Hamilton actors’ Petition sought was that they were petitioning for assurance from the Trump administration that, as ethnic and gender-identity minorities, their rights would be protected. In my view, Trump’s response was a resounding “No!” It was echoed by many of his followers. Instead of affirming our traditions of equal protection, Mr. Trump demanded homage. It was a demand to kneel and bow to his administration with a public apology.
To me, Trump failed the Freedom Test. Would only that Trump have praised the demonstration of speech and given a solid assurance that his administration was not white nationalist and would guarantee the blessings of Liberty to all, including ethnic and gender-based minorities. Trump did not do that in his Tweets. He has still not done that.
In fact, Mr. Trump in his glorious exercise of his right to speak freely as an American just cannot seem to understand why he is so criticized. To him, the press are all just liars because they view reality so differently from his view. Is Mr. Trump beginning to cross some line? http://nypost.com/2016/11/21/donald-trumps-media-summit-was-a-f-ing-firing-squad/
Later, Governor Pence to his credit did acknowledge the actors’ privilege, but Mr. Pence is a surrogate who has been publically contradicted for misperceiving the new party line. He is not the one who soon will be in charge. We have seen so many surrogates speak inaccurately that we have no idea as to what the President Elect thinks until he Tweets and then he may Tweet the opposite in a few hours.
I was really incensed by the Trumpist Tweets; angry.
Then, I went to Trump’s own Twitter account and made a marvelous discovery.
Even though clearly Trump failed the believer in freedom test, free speech itself passed with flying colors! The nation’s discourse is incensed with wonderful pungent vapors of the perfume of real freedom. The comments on Trump’s site were diverse and showed a broad range of viewpoints. The fragrance of free speech flowered also on Facebook and hundreds of other media and venues.
Where else but in America can the People have a direct, unfiltered conversation with a newly elected leader?
For years, I have been posting on this site. In doing so, I have disclosed a lot about myself. Some like me, others don’t, and some of you probably think I am an idiot. Others, like Tyler, the Colonel, TTG, and Babak Makkinejad and hundreds of others have exposed their personalities and beliefs. Each of us who post exposes something of their essence.
The thing about speaking is that if a speaker speaks long enough, the speaker’s character will be show.
By Tweeting and re-Tweeting, Mr. Trump has given us a wonderful view of who he really is in a very personal way. At some level, he must value and heed the discourse. Perhaps his participation in the conversation is one of the sources of his success. All types of people Tweet back. No doubt Mr. Trump uses Twitter to deflect us away from embarrassing things like his escape from the public airing of his business practices by settlement of serious fraud claims made personally against him. However, Mr. Trump may use social media, as a source of intelligence about the electorate, deflection, or advocacy, one thing is clear: Presidents elect share the same right of free speech with all of us. By his Tweeting, we have gotten to know him and he us. Hopefully, his Tweets will continue.
Isn’t it marvelous? We must all cherish and protect the discourse no matter what view of the future of this country we each individual may hold.
Post and Tweet on everybody! We may recover some common ground and good outcomes.
And thank you Colonel Lang for this Committee of Correspondence!
Have fun all!