Hey! How are you? Long time no see.
So have you heard about this new musical Hamilton? It’s the Hip hop story of one of the super-geniuses of the Revolution.
After hearing about it for awhile I decided to drop the cash on the soundtrack and wow…am I glad I did. Addicted ever since. It’s been playing “non-stop” (haha, song reference there) in our house. My daughter says she wishes she had had it when they were studying that period in History class. It would have made it a lot more interesting. Usually I have trouble getting her to listen to me about any serious subject, but finally I can stop the music and ask her if she understands what they’re talking about and she actually listens to my explanation.
So at one point the Jefferson character says, “Sally, be a lamb darling…” and I ask her if she knows who Sally is and I explain that that’s Sally Hemings, one of Jefferson’s slaves with whom it is known that Jefferson sired at least one child and probably more, [etc]… “So he raped her?!” “Well…by today’s standards, technically yes…though we can’t really know the true nature of their personal interactions…”
“Wow, they don’t teach you THAT in school.”
Ha! No, I guess not.
While I admit I was a bit worried about the “alternative casting” (most roles are played by Black or Hispanic actors), I needn’t have. This is straight up history done right (with a number of mostly forgivable adjustments for art’s sake).
And that’s what’s great. This thing is opening up what many young people look at as stale history to a whole new young audience which is completely engaged. They’re taking minority kids, many of whom have been told that all they need to know about the founders was that they were a bunch of slave-owning old White men – nothing but an excuse not study them – and making them relevant and interesting and relatable.
We don’t revere the founders because some of them were slave holders, we revere them in spite of their faults. Their philosophies and life stories are available and potentially inspiring to all. (Their various views toward slavery and their intended gift of its eventual disintegration is a subject worthy of its own posting.) All you have to do is look and listen.
As a Jew, should I deprive myself of Shakespeare because of the Merchant of Venice? Who suffers for that? Only myself. Mr. Shakespeare is long dust and beyond my censure. Likewise, Eliot, Fitzgerald, Orwell, Belloc…the list could go on for some time. History is full of people who at one time or another said or thought nasty things about the Jews. Are they not for me? Tough, I take them anyway.
When you tell a kid that his nation’s history is not for him, that he’s not in it as other than a door mat, that its deck is stacked against him…you are murdering his future. Hamilton puts this same kid back in the picture, back in the program. As Sissy reminded me recently when I mentioned this to her, politics is downstream from culture (as Andrew Breitbart used to say), and that’s just what’s happening here. A show can do more than all the blog posts and 700 page biographies put together.
It would be nice to actually see the show – another thing my daughter wants that just isn’t going to happen. I did manage to watch it on YouTube before it got taken down, though. Great.