Theater is performance that reflects a version of reality back onto us. Performative language, when communicated in the real world, not only describes reality, but changes the reality being described. Saying equals doing. The language used by leaders shapes not only the culture of their group, but the very fabric of what that group represents and how they are maintained. The performance by our leaders affects the theater of our own lives.
Last night, the cast of “Hamilton,” after final curtain call, addressed Vice president-elect Mike Pence with what I would call a polite request, thanking him for being in attendance and asking him to work on behalf and defend the rights of all of Americans. Direct, but polite.
Donald Trump, on Twitter, responded by saying that the Pence was the victim of harassment, and that the cast was rude and should apologize. Direct, but misinformative, and juvenile.
If Trump continues to communicate in a similar fashion after his Inauguration, I’m concerned with the dangerous precedent that he is setting as our nation’s leader.
Trump doesn’t have a problem with how the cast of “Hamilton” conducted themselves; his problem is that he disagreed with them. He claims to speak for America, but he often only speaks for himself, and this trickle down effect creates a culture where Americans perspective of America is through the limited frame of the individual rather than the collective conscience of all Americans.
Trump, like every other American, has free speech, but if he interprets the peaceful speech of his constituents as a personal attack, and uses his position of authority to demand their silence or acquiescence, it is equivalent to instituting policy that demands such.
At the very least, it creates a culture where it is acceptable for those who support his message to act out in an abusive way towards those who don’t. I encourage him to change what he says and how he says it, because his constituents don’t just do as he does, they do as he says. That’s the role our President plays.