Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Booth & Hamilton: Theater of the Absurd

       November 22nd is a day associated with the assassination of John F. Kennedy. But JFK's assassination has never particularly interested me, and I have even visited Dealey Plaza near the fortieth anniversary back in 2003. I was playing the visit by ear. I just happened to be in Dallas at the time. Perhaps it is my aversion to immerse myself in too many conspiracy theories, but I find other presidential assassinations far more interesting. In particular, Abraham Lincoln's.
       It might be obvious why Lincoln's assassination is on y mind right now, but first a related anecdote. A few days before delivering the Gettysburg Address, Lincoln saw his eventual assassin John Wilkes Booth playing a villain at Ford's Theater. A gentlemen seated with the president  noted a particularly heated bit of dialogue.
       “He seems to be reciting those lines to you,” he told the president.
       “He does talk very sharp at me, doesn't he?” Lincoln acknowledged.
      It is fairly common knowledge Booth was an actor, but it is not so well known that was a famous actor. While it is true John lived in the shadow of his brother, Edwin, John was still popular. The East Coast upper class certainly knew who he was. One might be inclined to make a Jeff and Beau Bridges comparison or maybe the Baldwins it is difficult to say when there was no tabloid fueled celebrity culture like there is these days.
       John was a Confederate sympathizer, although he never joined the Confederate Army. He is often branded a coward in this regard. I am curious how deep his political motivations went. There is some merit to the idea John killed Lincoln as a way of separating himself from his more talented and well-regarded brother. Someone with enough fortitude to assassinate the president is difficult to all a coward.
       Flash forward to this past weekend when Vice-President-elect Mike Pence took in a showing of the hit Broadway musical Hamilton. Pence was booed by the audience and lectured publicly about inclusiveness by the cast. One can argue whether taking such an action against an elected official is appropriate—I say no—but what is clear is how on edge Pence's secret Service detail must have been.
      Fortunately, a comparison of Booth and Hamilton is essentially “first time tragedy, second time fare.” Thankfully, farce sums up pretty well the celebrity reaction to conservative gains in the political arena, particular to President-Elect Donald Trump. Seriously...how many of those ding-a-lings who promised to move to Canada if trump won are actually leaving?

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