To set the stage for Mary the rebel Rockette, I first need to quote what I wrote here one year ago today:
“As we prepare for nearly a year of balloting, we’re in danger of embracing a very American version of autocracy. Our kind of autocrat doesn’t need a jackboot army of street thugs; all he needs is an instinctive genius for exploiting rampant discontent, and a silver tongue that is catnip for the instatiable media …Trump gets away with disgorging his garbage because his followers either focus on the stuff they like and edit out the garbage, or they endorse the garbage. And Trump’s critics are continually stumped and amazed that this keeps happening … But do we really want to flirt with autocracy? Are we not better than our basest instincts? The choice is ours.”
Well, the choice was made. And Americans who loathe the choice must decide how to deal with it. Does the majority of the voting electorate — the 53.9 percent who rejected Trump — knuckle under and try to normalize what’s happening? Or does it behoove the majority to commit small acts of rebellion, in defense of the pluralistic American values that are now imperiled?
Mary, one of the Rockettes, has opted to rebel.
As you know, the Rockettes are scheduled to dance for Trump at his coronation, but some of them are refusing to be court jesters for the repugnant king. Mary — talking under a pseudonym, to protect herself from idiot trolls and retaliatory Trumpkins — is one of the few who are willing to speak publicly. She did so yesterday, in Marie Claire magazine. (The nation’s polarized ills are so virulent, they’ve spread to Marie Claire magazine, which also quoted another dancer’s email: “I wouldn’t feel comfortable standing near a man like that in our costumes.”)
From the article:
“The Rockettes have performed at presidential inaugurations before — for George W. Bush in 2001 and 2005 — which Mary says she would have been happy to partake in. ‘We do a lot of events, but there have been no events that could cause trauma. And doing this would cause trauma for some people,’ she explains of the dancers who, like herself, can’t stomach celebrating a man who has bragged about sexually assaulting women. Or the few African-American women in the troupe who fear for their rights and their safety under an administration with reported white supremacists in its ranks. Mary says that to her knowledge, no women of color have signed up to perform that day.”
Officially, the Rockettes are free to perform or refuse. Mary, in her own words:
“This is not a Republican or Democrat issue — this is a women’s rights issue. This is an issue of racism and sexism, something that’s much bigger than politics … It’s [about] the ensemble. It’s the people in our wardrobe and hair department, some of whom are transgender. These are our friends and our family, who we’ve worked with for years. It’s a basic human-rights issue. We have immigrants in the show. I feel like dancing for Trump would be disrespecting the men and women who work with us, the people we care about.”
Yeah, I know, we’re only talking here about the Rockettes, not war and peace. But if performing for Trump is indeed a moral issue, rest assured that millions of Americans, in the months ahead, will be forced to confront their own difficult choices.
And those who tilt toward normalizing the new president would do well to heed the words of the renowned journalist Dorothy Thompson, who warned in 1935: “No people ever recognize their dictator in advance. He never stands for election on the platform of dictatorship … When our dictator turns up you can depend on it that he will be one of the boys, and he will stand for everything traditionally American.”