Got an opinion?

Decision by singer provides great opportunity for expressing views

On May 21, Brian Blair of The Republic reported that Columbus native Kate Hamilton would not be singing as the featured soloist at the SALUTE! concert that honors military veterans. Hamilton decided to pull out of the concert because Gov. Mike Pence would also be a part of the program.

As “a bisexual, pro-choice descendant of immigrants,” she does not agree with his social policies and does not want her appearance to look like she agrees with Pence’s policies.

I am impressed that Hamilton is willing to stand up for her beliefs. I understand that she feels that Pence’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act “allow(s) discrimination because of sexual orientation or gender identity,” that she is not in favor of House Bill 1337 that bans abortions based on genetic disabilities, and that she does not like Pence’s refusal to let Syrian refugees enter Indiana. She chose to not perform at the concert to peacefully protest government policies she does not favor.

Columbus native Kate Hamilton performs during a “Celebrating America” concert April 26, 2014 with the Columbus Indiana Philharmonic. MANDATORY CREDIT: CHRIS CRAWL Chris Crawl | For The Republic
Columbus native Kate Hamilton performs during a “Celebrating America” concert April 26, 2014 with the Columbus Indiana Philharmonic. MANDATORY CREDIT: CHRIS CRAWL Chris Crawl | For The Republic

However, as I thought more about this situation, I wondered if this could have been an opportunity to show that people can get along even if they have different opinions about things. The concert is not a political gathering, but rather a way to celebrate those who have served in the military. Would performing at the concert with Pence really be endorsing his policies?

Society has become very divisive, especially when it comes to politics. How are we supposed to find common ground and solve problems if we don’t talk to each other and instead avoid those who don’t share our beliefs? We all have different views on issues, which is a good thing. Sharing our varying views helps us consider all possibilities and identify well thought out solutions to problems. Additionally, different perspectives can illuminate possibilities we hadn’t previously considered and can help us empathize with others’ situations.

Hamilton does want people to share their opinions. She initially shared her views in a letter on social media and Blair wrote that she “hoped her open letter, ‘Politics is Personal,’ would allow all people to speak openly about their identity and how policies personally affect them without fear of harsh judgment or reprisal.” Withdrawing from the concert draws attention to the situation and the need for people to voice and share their opinions. Without this kind of sharing, finding common ground and solving problems is difficult.

There have been both Orchids and Onions in The Republic about Hamilton’s decision. Some congratulate her for making a stand, while others feel she is being disrespectful to the veterans the concert honors. Others point out that Hamilton is exercising her right to free speech, which veterans protect. Still others criticize The Republic for putting the story on the front page.

All points of view on Hamilton’s actions have merit. I am grateful that we can voice our opinions, that we all have different opinions, and that newspapers provide us a way to share those opinions. I am also grateful that Hamilton chooses to be respectful as she shares her views. My hope is that you take the time to respectfully consider all opinions and that you allow others to speak even if you don’t agree with them.

Susan Cox is one of The Republic’s community columnists, and all opinions expressed are those of the writer. She is a mother, an adjunct instructor of English at Ivy Tech Community College-Columbus and a substitute teacher for Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. She can be reached at editorial@therepublic.com.