The defiant speech of the opposition is what prevents us from slipping into absolute tyranny. No apologies are ever necessary.
Raising children to be polite, respectful, and kindly is challenging. Evidence would suggest more parents fail than succeed. Putting aside our selfish desires does not come easily when one reasons on the level of a seven-year-old. We see it around here every day.
Yesterday afternoon, for example, Little Man takes the TV remote and whacks his sister upside the head with it. Punishment was immediately delivered by his mother and afterward he was instructed to apologize to his sister. Staring blankly at the television he mumbled, “I’m sorry.”
Kat wasn’t going to let him get away with that. “No, you look her in the eyes and apologize.”
The Tipster turns around, probably enjoying the attention a little too much, and faces her brother. “I’m sorry, ” he says, a little most distinctly this time.
“For what?” she demands. She’s not letting him off the hook that easily.
A long pause follows before he finally says, “For hitting you with the remote.”
Lesson learned? Probably not. Rarely does a child change their behavior based on a single event, especially when that event is not necessarily traumatic. Learning how to behave in social situations takes time and, we can all probably attest, not everyone ever learns. Some people remain self-centered and selfish their entire lives. They see everyone else doing wrong while they remain innocent. They want apologies from everyone else but are slow to give them when they are wrong. Such a trait is frustrating to encounter on a normal basis. When that same trait is exhibited on the part of an elected leader, however, the matter is far more troubling. Such would seem to be the case with the incoming US administration.
A Rough Night At The Theatre
Our president-elect has decided that he doesn’t want to govern from the White House full time. Apparently, the lack of gold-plated toilets at the White House bothers him. Instead, he wants to spend time, see heads of state, and conduct national business from his home in New York. Now, there are a multitude of logistical and legal questions regarding whether such a move is possible. However, one element was probably not given the consideration it deserves: 85% of New Yorkers did not vote for the president-elect. Being in New York may put him in familiar territory but it certainly doesn’t put him in friendly territory. He’s going to have to expect considerable opposition, especially when the Secret Service blocks Fifth Ave., snarling downtown traffic for hours on end.
A couple of nights ago, the vice president-elect somehow managed to snag tickets to the hottest musical to hit Broadway in quite some time: Hamilton. I just checked, and if any of us mere mortals want to see the show, the best we can hope for is to purchase a ticket now for a show in August of 2017. If you’re really desperate and are willing to drop $450 or more for your ticket, they’ll squeeze you in for a June performance. Getting a ticket now pretty much means someone has to die. Yet, power has its privileges and the vice president-elect was able to get tickets for himself, his daughter, and a nephew. A nice family evening out. How sweet.
Right from the start, though, the reception on the part of New Yorkers was chilly. An elected official with the status of the vice president-elect doesn’t just slip into the theatre quietly. The instant he was recognized, the vice president-elect was booed. Hamilton officials and actors requested the audience be quiet. Such rudeness is generally not tolerated on Broadway.
At the end of the performance, however, the politically-attuned cast decided to address the vice president-elect whose statements and policies as Governor of Indiana might affect many of them directly. Actor Brandon Victor Dixon, who plays Aaron Burr, the country’s third vice president, spoke on behalf of the cast. The results looked like this:
In my mind, and I would like to think that of most reasonable people, the statement was polite, well-written, and appropriately delivered. However, little Mikey (he’ll eat anything, ya’ know) went running back to his political “Daddy” and the response from the president-elect was very much what one might expect from the father of a bully whose victim had dared to stand up to him. Mr. Trump tweeted:
“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!”
“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!”
The response from Hamilton was also what one might expect. Mr. Dixon responded:
“@realDonaldTrump conversation is not harassment sir. And I appreciate @mike_pence for stopping to listen”
Hamilton‘s author, Lin-Manuel Miranda, tweeted:
“Proud of @HamiltonMusical. Proud of @BrandonVDixon, for leading with love. And proud to remind you that ALL are welcome at the theater.”
Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement:
“The apology should instead come from President-elect Trump for calling into question the appropriateness of the Hamilton cast’s statements.”
Response from the rest of the Internet was unsurprising. Those who support the president-elect started a #BoycottHamilton hashtag that quickly started trending. Those opposing the president-elect responded with reminders that tickets to the musical are impossible to get and offers to gleefully take tickets off the hands of any potential theatre-goers who might be offended. The whole conversation is as inane and irreverent as the Internet tends to be when void of any form of respect and/or self-discipline.
Hold on, let’s look at some numbers
Opposition is a necessary part of reasoning and intelligent dialog. There must always be a different side than that which is dominate. We are a diverse people of many minds and opinions. All of those opinions deserve some form of hearing and to the extent that they are presented respectfully, as was the Hamilton casts’ statement, they deserve to be treated respectfully. Any response should be thoughtful and well-considered. Such is the nature of polite communication. We cannot expect to never be challenged, but we are obligated to challenge and respond in kind.
Judging from the response not only to this particular situation but other moments of challenge, one might get the idea that the president-elect thinks that he does not deserve to be challenged in any form. Statements against articles in the media, primarily those in the New York Times show that this president-elect would rather respond like a bully, attempting to use intimidation rather than reason when responding to opposition. Consider a few of the following examples:
Just had a very open and successful presidential election. Now professional protesters, incited by the media, are protesting. Very unfair!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 11, 2016
Wow, the @nytimes is losing thousands of subscribers because of their very poor and highly inaccurate coverage of the “Trump phenomena”
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 13, 2016
The failing @nytimes story is so totally wrong on transition. It is going so smoothly. Also, I have spoken to many foreign leaders.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 16, 2016
I watched parts of @nbcsnl Saturday Night Live last night. It is a totally one-sided, biased show – nothing funny at all. Equal time for us?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 20, 2016
The very fact that the president-elect chooses to use a short-form means of communication through Twitter shows how little respect he has for those who oppose him. A polite, professional, response considers the points raised by the opposition and addresses them fully, not with statements like “Very unfair!” or “very poor and highly inaccurate coverage.” If the opposition is making statements that are unfair and/or inaccurate, then address those statements specifically. State the actual offense and then respond specifically and directly to that offense.
Our president-elect might need to be reminded that his election does not carry with it anything that might resemble a consensus among the American people. The vast majority of Americans did not vote for him. The president-elect received, at last count, 61,898,584 votes that were distributed in such a manner as to provide him with a presumed win among the electoral college. However, at no point in this presidency can or should he lose sight of the fact that his most direct opponent, Mrs. Clinton, received more votes with the current tally at 63,551,979. Now, if we were to add up all the remaining votes that were cast for someone other than Mr. Trump, including 747,993 write-ins and 28,824 for “none of these candidates,” we come to a total of 71, 000, 869 people who did not vote for the president-elect. That’s nearly ten million more than voted for him.
The overwhelming number of people who oppose the incoming administration is significant. With more people opposed to him than are those supporting him, the president-elect has little choice to not only expect strong and reactive voices of opposition and defiance but to respond appropriately. Bullies do not go unchallenged for long. Ignorance is never allowed to dominate a situation for long. The opposition to this administration is strong and it is going to be vocal and it is going to be unapologetic.
We’re gonna preach now
Defiant speech is necessary for a society no matter how it is constructed. Those who stand in opposition must take voice. When that voice comes from the position of the under served, the disenfranchised, the bullied, the beaten, and those long ignored, it is going to be loud and it is going to challenge the status quo and it is going to openly defy the authority that has stood in its way. This is not unique to the United States. Defiant speech gets things done and it never, ever apologizes. Consider some examples from history:
- Holy Roman Emperor Charles V didn’t like what Martin Luther wrote and placed on the door of the church at Wittenburg. When called before the Diet (assembly) at Worms, Luther was unrepentant and refused to apologize. Luther made it clear that he had no intention of recanting his writings and Charles V was seething. The Holy Roman Emperor did not like being challenged. Yet, by doing so Luther changed the course of the entire Christian world, a social impact that is still effective today. Should Martin Luther have apologized? Hell no!
- On March 23, 1775, it was a defiant Patrick Henry, whose stance before the Virginia delegates gathered at St. John’s church was not that of the majority, proclaimed in opposition:“Gentlemen may cry, “Peace! Peace!” — but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!” Many found Henry’s speech deplorable. King George III of England certainly found it offensive. Should Patrick Henry have apologized? Hell no!
- The events of August 28, 1963 offended a lot of people. As most Americans watched on television, the mall across from the Lincoln Memorial began to fill with people of color who were fed up with the way they had been treated and tired of having their voices ignored. A young preacher, named after another preacher known for his defiant speech, stepped up to the microphone and said,“I have a dream, that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood . . .
I have a dream, that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream . . .”People sat in stunned silence to hear Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s words. They struck a chord that went deep to the heart. Millions did not like what they heard, but it was time for the world to change and that change was not going to come from continuing to be silent and not challenge the status quo. Should Martin Luther King, Jr. have apologized for that speech? Hell no!
Speeches of opposition and defiance are rarely received well. We cannot expect that someone would challenge a presumed authority and expect to have that challenge welcomed and embraced. Yet, there is no question that every voice needs to be heard and that the collective sound of those voices as they grow louder and stronger serves to stand in the face of tyranny as a guard against the destruction of freedoms many have died to win. There is no place for apologies here. On these things let us be very clear:
We stand in opposition to those who tolerate hate, whether it is their own or that of those around them and with whom they associate.
We stand in opposition to those who would deny the rights of an individual to be who and what they were created to be.
We stand in opposition to those who attempt to define who can love whom.
We stand in opposition to those who would deny citizenship to one based on their belief system or country of origin.
We stand in opposition to those who attempt to rule over what a person can do with their own body.
We stand in opposition to those who endanger the world by denying science in favor of mythology.
We stand in opposition to those who consider the color of a person’ skin as a qualifier for their humanity.
We stand in opposition to those who would put their personal profit ahead of the good of the country.
We stand in opposition to those who would deny education and place it out of reach.
We stand in opposition to those who place families in danger, who imprison those they fear, and enslave those imprisoned.
We stand in opposition to those who would build walls.
We will not be silent. Our place and our voice is established by the universe, not by man.
We will not be silent. We will stand in the highways and the hedges, on the street corners, and on the stages of Broadway to announce our opposition.
We will not be silent. We will protect those we love, our way of life, and our future.
We will not be silent. We will shout in the face of fear and drown out the voices of bigotry and ignorance.
We will not be silent. We will use every means and method at our disposal to ensure that this country of the people, by the people, and for the people shall never disappear from the face of this earth.
We are the opposition. We are 71, 000, 869 strong and we will not go away, we will not be quiet.
So, Mr. President-elect, take your pettiness, your shallow offense, your whining children, and the ignorance that follows you and prepare to be opposed. We will not back down. We will not give up.
And we will NEVER apologize.