Dissent is a necessary thing

“Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear.” — Harry S Truman, August 1950

At the time that then President Harry Truman delivered these words to Congress, the Cold War was underway and the House Un-American Activities Committee was already in full swing, but Jospeh McCarthy had not yet carried that momentum to the Senate. We, in the US, along with the other nations of the West, were busy distancing ourselves from Jospeh Stalin since the alliances that helped us win in WWII were already becoming a distant memory. And freedom of expression – and the right to dissent – was a cornerstone of our Republic. The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, adopted in 1791, specifically says:

“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.

But now it seems that the petulant thin-skinned creature that kept appearing in Twitter tantrums during the campaign, is not going to go quietly to make way for a more ‘presidential’ persona. The same man that has vowed to change the libel laws to make it easier to sue journalists and others (occassional bloggers, perhaps?) for saying ‘bad’ things about a person (particularly those named Trump, I suspect, since he is a bit fond of lawsuits), has now said that the cast of the Broadway play, Hamilton, should apologize for not actually saying anything bad to vice-president elect Mike Pence at Friday evening it’s performance. This is what was actually read to the VP-elect:

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 that this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and to work on behalf of all of us. All of us.

We truly thank you for sharing this show, this wonderful American story told by a diverse group of men, women of different colors, creeds and orientations.

To keep things in perspective, Mr. Pence, a consummate politician, has said that he was not offended, that he really enjoyed the show, and that he wants the cast to know that Donald Trump was sincere in saying he wanted to be president for ‘all Americans’.

Mr. Trump, however, has not actually let the matter rest, yet, and he may not until the next opportunity for manufactured outrage, since it served to distract nicely from his civil suit settlement in the Trump University fraud case. He has demonstrated a disturbing tendency to the be upset by any form of dissent. And that flies in the face of a tradition that past presidents a of both parties have set throughout the existence of our country. The irony that his reaction to this particular bit of dissent, which came from the cast of a Broadway play that uses a diverse cast to tell the story of one of our founding fathers, is not lost.

Well, sorry, Mr. Trump, I suspect you are in for a lot of it over then next few years since there were many parts of your proposed agenda that many of those that voted for you did not think you intended to stick with. In some cases, they were probably right, but in a few – as demonstrated by your transition announcements and leaks – they were very wrong. It’s certainly going to be an interesting 4 years.

 

 

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