Obsession. That’s the only way to describe the feelings of Hamilton followers, and once you’ve seen the show you’d understand why. Hamilton is a punch in the face, spellbinding transport through the life of one of the least well-known founding fathers, but by far one of the most interesting. And the best part? It’s done through the lens of hip-hop music and a cast of almost exclusively non-white actors-including our own dear Alexander Hamilton. While this caused confusion for some, who began to question their 8th grade history memory, it stands as one of the most powerful examples of today’s racial divide and the movements to correct it.
I’ll admit, I was skeptical going into the play. My friend and I had gotten tickets when they first went on sale almost 9 months before opening night. We saw it in its first month on Broadway after the success off-Broadway. I remember sitting in my chair prior to the curtain rise, uncertain of whether I’d like a modern take on a history. Could it reach across the aisle of race? Could it hold attention of a subject most forget about? Would I get it? Did I really wait 9 months and spend hundreds of dollars for something that might just be weird? It took exactly 1 minute until those questions left my mind and instead I was entrapped, enamored, enthralled with this play that lives up to one of the numbers “non-stop.” It was a non-stop journey, filled with humor, and anguish, and longing. I was converted. I was in love.
I went to see it a second time a few months, later, unable to wait until the soundtrack was finally released, I bought a resale ticket at far too high of an amount for my poor social work status. But I had to go, the play had brought about a plague within me; this wasn’t just a good show, it was something far beyond. Much like its creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, I began what has still been obsessive task of reading book after book on Hamilton, and the rest of those influential individuals who shaped the country. I wake up with the music in my head, and despite my best efforts, can’t stop listening to the songs. And then it hit me. This isn’t just a great musical and it’s not just because it is new and different, it’s because despite almost 300 hundred years since this man stood with the revolution, its relevant. And not in the way you think.
Over the past few years we have seen a second wave of the civil rights movement in America. Sadly, Despite the year, minorities, immigrants, and even women are still seen and treated differently than the white male counterpoint. Feelings and reactions peak and overspill in areas like Ferguson and Baltimore. Huge movements such as Black Lives Matter rise up demanding justice in the country that fought and promised a land of freedom and equality. Hamilton isn’t just play to see, it’s a needed reminder. Alexander Hamilton was an immigrant who fought for the revolution, becoming one of Washington’s most trusted aides, rising to one of the highest positions in our military and later our government. From a remarkably young age, he was an abolitionist in a time when that word would be as shocking as to claim you’re an alien. He never allowed his birth and his circumstances to define him, and instead fought his entire life for the beliefs he had, including a strong central government and financial plan that allowed America to be self-sufficient and play with the “big boys” for trade and commerce. Hamilton saw first-hand the potential risks of weak governments while dealing with the military forces. He understood even then that we had to be the United States in order to succeed in this revolutionary experiment. And he wanted those rights for every individual who was here.
Hamilton was a true American Dream hero, but despite what a lot of modern people claim, self-made men are never independent of others’ help. Many wish to believe that they rose to where they are because only due to their remarkable abilities, and for some that is true, but much more often than not there was help along the way. Our founding father is no exception. Although known as a uniquely bright youth on the island of Nevis where he was orphaned at a young age, Hamilton might never have risen to the station he once held without the help of many. Yes, he showed himself to be a studious and adept learner when put in charge of the local trading company-and may have stayed on as a success employee had the Hurricane not hit Nevis with a colossal force. Hamilton, always a writer, penned a poem of what he witnessed, and a local man who believed Hamilton had the capacity for more forwarded it to the influential of the island. Despite the devastation they made an investment in one of their own, raising enough to send our future Secretary of Treasury and war hero to the colonies(America) to pursue a real education. To sum up, if those with means didn’t decide to put forward an investment for an orphan with potential Alexander Hamilton would have mostly likely lived his life and died having never left a small, impoverished island. For a poor, orphan of questionable birth and heritage, that would not have left many surprised, and yet the island rose together to support him.
We’re looking at a similar issue in today’s world. Do we invest in the future, on education, on sustainability for those who can go on to do greatness despite the circumstances of their birth, or do we claim that we got to where we were without assistance from anyone? Hundreds of years after Hamilton discussed the need for equality we are still in the midst of revolutions to save the ideals of our nation. Each person is shaped by those around them, and it is of no surprise that the haves are able to gain a lot more opportunity than the have nots. For this reason, many assume it is laziness that prevent people from working their way up. Hamilton was the antithesis of lazy, but if it wasn’t for one influential patronage who connected him to the elite, our country may never have gained the footing it needed to be a competitive economy.
We have a responsibility to those around us and who come next to shape the world into a better place for us all, not just for ourselves. We saw yesterday what happens if we don’t stand against those who would spread hatred, and instead hold onto love. As Mr. Manuel so eloquently put:
“…We chase the melodies that seem to find us until they’re finished songs and start to play when senseless acts of tragedy remind us that nothing here is promised, not one day. This show is proof that history remembers. We live through times when hate and fear seem stronger. We rise and fall, and light from dying embers, remembrances that hope and love last longer and love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love cannot be killed or swept aside…”
And if you need more convincing, join me in line for some tickets to Hamilton, you won’t be disappointed(seriously if you know how to get reasonable tickets you know how to contact me).
“I consider civil liberty, in a genuine unadulterated sense, as the greatest of terrestrial blessings. I am convinced, that the whole human race is intitled(entitled) to it; and, that it can be wrested from no part of them, without the blackest and most aggravated guilt.”- Alexander Hamilton
*Authors note*- Should Mr. Miranda see this, congrats on the Grammy, call me for unlimited praise and begging for interviews. Your PR man is too good at polite declines
**Update- And your UNREAL number of Tony nominations and wins!!
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