Free Speech Gets Played

Even before taking the oath of office the president-elect has taken aim at our First Amendment right to freedom of expression.

burp“Apologize!” The Orange One demanded after a group of actors expressed their concerns to the veep-elect. “…future V.P. Mike Pence was harassed last night at the theater by the cast of Hamilton, cameras blazing. This should not happen!

Decide for yourself whether the exhortation below represents harassment. Ask yourself what happened that need be hidden from cameras. Ask—in the United States, should this not happen?

In a follow-up tweet the prez-to-be did get at least one thing right: “The Theater must always be a safe and special place. The cast of Hamilton was very rude last night to… Mike Pence. Apologize!”

Our theaters are safe. Our theaters are special. Our theaters are safe and special exactly because for centuries our Constitution has upheld the right of theater companies—and artists, writers, the faithful, protestors, citizens of all kind—to assemble and petition, to address leadership and express their views, without fear of reprisal.

The Tweets, sadly, are not the first step in tyranny but rather a sign that the assault on decency that began during the campaign will only continue apace into the next four years. The “rude” address?

Vice President-elect Pence, we welcome you, and we truly thank you for joining us here at ‘Hamilton: An American Musical.’ We really do. 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 this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and work on behalf of all of us. All of us. Again, we truly thank you truly for seeing this show, this wonderful American story told by a diverse group of men and women of different colors, creeds and orientations.”

Your right to freedom of expression came one step closer to revocation this weekend from a man who took full advantage of his right to spew all manner of vicious filth against hard-working Americans, just because they are women, or members of another culture, practice another religion, have a different lifestyle. Do you really believe he’ll change his thinking after taking the oath of office on January 20th?

I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

Freedom of expression is a sacred and foundational right in this republic, and the president-elect has, by his words and his deeds, threatened to revoke it. It’s not too much to ask that he apologize. But don’t hold your breath waiting.