The Presidential Inauguration, with its political and historical significance for the United States, has always been a star-studded celebration of a new presidential era. President Obama was able to book iconic names, including legendary R&B singer Aretha Franklin, James Taylor, and the modern queen of pop culture, Beyoncé. While it appeared to be a great honor to usher in the first African American president, one who promised hope and change for America, what about the first celebrity businessman who promises to make us great again?
Those who have followed the election are familiar with the onslaught of politically incorrect rhetoric from Donald Trump. Some people loved this quality about him, while others, including myself, found his comments and attitudes towards minorities, women, the LGBT community, and disabled people alarming. If there is one truth we can all agree on, it’s that this election has produced a very divided country, but also that Trump’s comments offended and frightened many people in America. As even famous Republicans learned during Trump’s campaign, it’s controversial to even be associated with Donald Trump, let alone outwardly approve of him. In the same vein, musicians are refusing to perform at his inauguration. As a precaution, artists are choosing to stay uninvolved instead of inadvertently making a political statement that could send the wrong message and alienate their fans.
To me, standing up and performing at a presidential inauguration shows that you have pride in the incoming President. You become an essential part of celebrating their incoming power and all that they plan to do for the country. While some may argue that performing for Donald Trump supports unity in our country after a very intense election season, I believe that an influential person should not pretend to condone things a politician does simply for the sake of appearing unified. I believe that’s a dangerous path.
Donald Trump, like any other politician, deserves to be critiqued and protested when people disagree with him. If we begin Trump’s term by suppressing our opinions for the sake of a brief pause in political debate, we may find that his ideas we found unacceptable in the beginning become a reality. While we should feel encouraged to support our leaders, we should never do so blindly.
Recently, the iconic dance troupe Radio City Rockettes became one of the few acts slotted to perform, but this has already produced a whirlwind of controversy. In a Rolling Stone article, an anonymous dancer said, “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.” And that’s what makes this inauguration different from President Obama’s. The number of citizens who will feel in danger after Trump takes the presidency is unprecedented. Immigrants are afraid of being deported. Muslims and the gay community are terrified of hate crimes that are already on the rise. Women are scared of losing access to safe and affordable reproductive health care. Choosing to not perform at Trump’s inauguration is not a matter of personal politics, it’s a matter of wanting fans to feel included and safe in an increasingly divided country. In this way, I feel that refusing to perform promotes unity more than any inauguration performance could.
This issue has caused Elton John, KISS, Kanye West, Celine Dion and countless other musicians to turn down the offer to perform. This unparalleled struggle to book a big name to celebrate the upcoming 45th President speaks volumes about larger issues the Trump Presidency will face. His dangerous strategy of using fear and stereotypes to divide our nation while refusing to be politically correct in politics has worried millions and has sparked fear for what’s to come. Some would say it’s disrespectful to refuse to perform for the President of the United States, but I would say that it would be even more disrespectful to the American people if an artist normalized Trump’s dangerous agenda by performing as if it were for anybody else. Just because Donald Trump will be our next president does not mean that his actions, such as mocking a disabled person and advocating sexual assault, should be forgotten. I’m proud that many influential artists are taking a stand against accepting Trump’s alarming rhetoric. It inspires me to continue to raise my voice against things I don’t believe are right in this changing political climate.
Claire Harvey is a second year literary journalism major. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org