Does anyone remember the time then Vice President Elect Mike Pence was put on blast by the cast of Hamilton? Because I do. I remember, at the time, being somewhat irritated with the cast, as they seemed to insinuate that the election of Donald Trump was the antithesis of what they were selling; ie, a diverse cast in the shoes of America’s founding fathers. I was wrong. But I digress.

This isn’t about the cast of Hamilton. This is about Pence. And I remember a story, probably fudged and possibly apocryphal, that came out amid news of this little kerfuffle. This is how the story went; When the cast came out, and said their piece, many audience members booed the then Vice President Elect as he left his balcony seat. Upon hearing these boos, Pence turned to his grandchildren, remarking, “That’s what freedom sounds like.”

I really hope that’s true, but I kind of doubt it. I’m just curious if Pence also believes that freedom looks like a handful of NFL players taking a knee during the national anthem. A “We stand for the National Anthem,” aside during his speech seemed to indicate otherwise, and so I did not stand to clap, at this part, which was noted by the folks around me, and it was sort of strange, sitting down in protest of statements condemning those who knelt to protest. 

Here, I cannot help but think on the vast discrepancies between the way in which President Trump and former President Bush dealt with outspoken gold star families. While one (and I won’t name names) bullied a family who had tragically lost their son, all because they had had the audacity to criticize a policy proposal, even going so far as to make some weird, pretty sexist comments about the grieving mother. The other President, who was lambasted by gold star families for what many felt was an unjust or unnecessary war, was nothing but gracious toward said families, acknowledging their First Amendment rights to protest and, at some level, empathizing with their pain. Night and day, these two Presidents, at least in terms of character. But, again, I digress.

Though perhaps digression is necessary, as I have very little to say about Vice President Pence’s bland, cookie-cutter address to the ideologically monolithic CPAC crowd. 

A word about CPAC. Throughout the conference, there were many references made to a perceived disdain for “intellectual diversity” among progressive intellectuals. I have heard several people make the exact same semi-joke, which always goes something like, “These lefties/liberals/leftists/libs/dems/socialists/progressives/marxists (all, I should add, synonymous) care so much about diversity (always said mockingly) but don’t care about the only diversity that matters– Diversity of thought!” Maybe that’s true. I don’t think so. I attend one of the most progressive schools in the country, and study political science, but have never really seen what they’re talking about. Sure, the teachers are almost unanimously progressive, and from time to time the ideas expressed are not as nuanced as I would liked, but the grand marxist cabal that seems to lurk in the nightmares of conservative thinkers simply does not exist.

Pence did not get everything wrong in his speech. He talked about his decision to ignore Kim Yo-jong, the only sister of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, when the two sat near each other at the Seoul olympics. I remember arguing with my roommate about this. Here’s what I think– The Un family are monsters. North Korea has active gulags, rampant starvation, and is, politically, the most repressive nation on Earth. I don’t think calling Kim Jong-un fat is a good idea (as a certain fat dude recently did on twitter), but I also took issue with some media outlets’ tepid responses to this decision. I don’t think a superficial display of goodwill, like a handshake between leaders, would be appropriate, especially given the optics of such a display, which might suggest that the U.S. and North Korea are in some way moral equivalents. And they are not.

To be honest, for a moment, about my own internal monologue during Pence’s address, I almost wish he’d said something really dumb here. Because he was so wrong about so many things, and, at least from my perspective, so many people at CPAC were wrong about so many things, and it’s hard, both agreeing and disagreeing with a person, because we’re forced to accept that good people can believe bad things. At least, I think they can. I’m still working that out.

On that point, I should talk about one of the areas where Pence is very wrong. Vice President Pence has supported gay conversion therapy throughout his political career. At the absolute least, Vice President Pence is wishy-washy on gay conversion therapy, which is not an issue that I feel allows for any nuance. Think about it. Really think about it. Imagine you’re a young man, 15 or so, who has been confused and scared his entire life, wanting desperately to be something than you clearly are not. Imagine having the courage to tell your parents. Now imagine that your parents send you to the camp, and now imagine that the best– the absolute best– thing that can happen to you at this camp is horrible emotional abuse. And now imagine that worst things that could happen. Look up conversion therapy. Spoiler alert– It’s sickening.

I think Pence is a coward. I think he’s the kind of man who will rail against the Washington establishment, or lambast government overreach, but has only ever squiggled and squirmed in the mud to reach the highest echelons of power. I found his speech uninspiring, entirely performative, and intellectually dishonest. But he’s smart, clearly, and he is the Vice President, and so I’m not sure what my opinion is going to do about that. 

And I think CPAC was a no holds barred convention of Trump fetishists, and I think that political gatherings of that kind only worsen the partisan divide. But I got to go to D.C. for free, which was cool, I suppose. If you’re ever in a situation similar to mine, skip the speeches and go to a museum. You’ll sure as hell learn more.