On a recent Delta flight from Atlanta, a young man stood up before take-off and started harassing his fellow-passengers with a pro-Trump rant, yelling “Donald Trump baby!” and “We got some Hillary bitches on here?” while pointing at individual travelers. He also said, “Donald Trump is your President. Every god damn one of you. If you don’t like it, too bad.” Delta initially removed him, but returned him to the cabin. According to one witness, upon returning the man said, “This is what you get for being a patriot.”
He’s an idiot, of course, and there’s no excuse for his conduct. And yet…
How different is what he did, and what the “Hamilton” actors did? Not much. Neither the “Hamilton” audience members nor the passengers bought tickets to be subjected to this. Both were captive audiences. The conduct in both cases constituted harassment. The clearest distinction was that the jerk on the plane wasn’t an employee; if he had been a flight attendant, the incidents would have been even more similar. The jerk on the plane didn’t single out a particular passenger by name, making his conduct better, not worse, than what the “Hamilton” cast did. On the plane, passengers hadn’t previously jeered the Hillary Clinton voters among them, so the intimidation factor Pence experienced was absent, and it was only one passenger, not a passenger with an imposing line of others backing him up, like the wall of actors behind Brandon Victor Dixon.
Every single unethical rationalization that has been used to support the conduct of the “Hamilton” actors could just as reasonably —as in not—be used to justify the screaming Trump supporter. The harassment of Pence was after the performance, you say? The harassment of the passengers occurred before the flight. Was he just engaging in a “conversation,” as the “Hamilton” cast disingenuously described their stunt? Well, it was a lot closer to a conversation than what “Hamilton” did. For one thing, the Delta passenger wasn’t scripted.
I blame “Hamilton” and its cast’s defenders in the theater community and the news media for this. Absolutely. The absurd excuses offered for the cast’s clearly unethical conduct made this similarly rude and unfair conduct inevitable. Why aren’t the self-righteous and hypocritical “Hamilton” fans defending the Delta Deplorable? Because their excuses and rationalizations can’t apply to him–he’s not in the right! Can’t you see that? His targets didn’t deserve this, not like Mike Pence, who forfeited his right to be treated like every other audience member for centuries, including elected officials, because he holds the wrong political views!
Shatter reasonable and effective societal and professional norms that have worked well for centuries to allow self-indulgent grandstanding, and this is what happens.
Thanks, “Hamilton”! You just gave license to rude, disruptive, partisan jerks everywhere.