When I first heard that the Mormon Tabernacle Choir was going to perform at Donald Trump's inauguration, I had to chuckle a little for a few reasons. First, Trump has seemingly, on face value, always had a thin relationship with the Mormons. Generally, there is no love lost there. It's a values thing, and the Donald does not exactly espouse the high moral ground and covenants of the LDS church.
That doesn't mean he doesn't have a heart and soul, or conviction—spiritual conviction, that is. I'm not sure about the other kind. In fact, he might be a very soulful man, but, like many of us, he doesn't wear it on his sleeve.
It was hard to wrap one's head around his campaign rhetoric—"We love the Mormons!" But apparently "the Mormons" loved Trump right back at the polls.
Then there is Mitt Romney. What about Mitt? Was Trump ever sincere in his courting of him for the secretary of state title? Many insiders—and at least half of your Facebook feed—thought Trump was baiting Romney, setting him up for an embarrassing fall for all the things Mitt said about Trump during the campaign. On the surface, they are seemingly as different as two people can be. You could even say they are arch enemies.
And now, having the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sing at Trump's inauguration could be viewed as the ultimate "in your face" gesture to Romney.
Nasty business, politics.
Now, for the entertainment portion of our program:
When I read about choir member Jan Chamberlin quitting and saying that performing at the inauguration would be akin to endorsing tyranny and fascism, I thought that was a bit of a stretch. It reminded me of Kim Davis, the county clerk in Rowan County, Ky., who defied federal law in 2015 by refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples because of her own personal moral convictions.
Just like Davis, Chamberlin is only drawing attention to herself. And that's fine if she wants to express her convictions—she is free to do so—but beyond that, she is unwittingly drawing negative attention to the whole inauguration process, and to the presidency. When it comes down to it, her actions will have little effect on suppressing the tyranny and fascism she believes Trump represents.
"I only know I could never throw roses to Hitler. And I certainly could never sing for him," Chamberlin said in her resignation letter, which she shared on Facebook.
For all his faults (again, check your social media feed for real-time coverage), Trump is not Hitler. I don't care for his behavior and publicized antics, his off-the-cuff comments or even his personality. I'll make my comments and state my business with my vote.
President Ronald Reagan called the Mormon Tabernacle Choir "America's choir." The choir has a prestigious history of excellence. It has performed around the world, even in countries whose politics and policies Chamberlin would likely not agree with. Ironically—and apropos of the current events surrounding the Russian government and our recent election—the group has performed in Moscow.
The choir transcends politics, it has a higher calling and a lofty mission. Some might argue that it is sacrosanct.
They've performed at the inaugurations of 10 presidents beginning with William Howard Taft in 1909, and including Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Reagan, George Bush and George W. Bush.
Personal convictions aside, this historic event and time-honored inauguration performance is bigger than one person. This is a team and a national effort with profound international repercussions.
Really, I'm OK with Chamberlin's decision to quit. It's absolutely her call and right to follow her own moral compass, and many have shown her admiration for her actions. The church has come out in support of her decision to quit, saying that the performance is voluntary to begin with, so no biggie. Many within the LDS Church support her decision as well. Looking at the bigger picture, a punitive response might've been, "Pack up your songbooks and clean out your locker ... You're fired!"
And, Jan, what if ... just what if it was your angelic soprano voice ringing true in the midst of the choir's performance that caught President-elect Trump's ear and brought him closer to your point of view and convictions and inspired him, as the choir always inspires all of us? What if this was your mission on Earth—to break through to Trump and make him see the error of his ways? What if it were your singular presence at the inauguration and your singular performance that were meant to change the course of history? Who knows?
The Lord sure works in mysterious ways.
Singin' in the rain, Jan—it comes with the job. In fact, it just might be the job.
John Kushma is a Logan-based communication consultant.