Wide Enough

Several months ago, a friend told me to listen to the soundtrack of Hamilton, the musical that has gotten so very much acclaim recently. And so about a month and a half ago, I listened to it for the first time. Boy! did my life change that day! I thought I would just be listening to another good musical, and possibly falling in love with it – the story, the music, the lyrics – as I have done with other musicals like Into the Woods and Les Misérables. I was wrong. I am now rather obsessed with this musical. So obsessed that, for a couple of weeks, I listened to Hamilton and only Hamilton on constant repeat. I have never before felt so emotionally connected to our founding fathers, or felt so proud to be a United States citizen. Actually, there have been very few times in the past that I have been whole-heartedly proud of being from the United States. Sure, there are luxuries and privileges that come with being a citizen of this country, but there are so many things I have not liked about it. There are still things I do not like about the United States: our rampant consumerism; our disrespect for nature and wasteful use of resources (which thankfully is lessening in some places, but could still be improved upon); and our “bigger is better” motto when it comes to things like food servings, vehicles, and campaign budgets… Just to name a few.

This year’s presidential election and the campaigns leading up to it have also made me quite sick with United States citizenship. The adolescent behavior we have witnessed daily from Donald Trump has made me want to hang my head and hide in humiliation. And his desire to bar entry to immigrants by building a “bigger, better” (those words ring any bells?) wall between the United States and Mexico has compelled me to think of escaping to another country for the next four to eight years if he does in fact become president. (God, please don’t let it be eight years, if any!) But now it seems as though Britain – a place that I have always admired as being better than the United States – is also tempted to hoard its land like a two-year-old who has not yet learned to share. And, as much as I dislike their vote to leave the European Union, it at least shows that the United States is not alone in supporting stupid, careless, embarrassing, and infinitely damaging decisions.

But in the midst of my despair for our country’s future, Hamilton came into my life and rewrote the game of my depressing thoughts. Learning about the men and women behind our country’s birth has made me proud to be a United States citizen. These people fought for our country and argued for our rights. They worked tirelessly to build our new nation. Our nation was founded by men and women who were dreamers, thinkers, and innovators. They created an entirely new nation and form of government (and bank system!) from a blank slate. They reached for the stars and came back with a free country… well, not for everyone, but the slaves got free eventually. They came back with a place where we do not need to be born into a royal family to rule, we do not need to have a title or nobility or money to get a say into our rights, and we are not stuck with the same ruler until he or she dies. They came back with a world that was wide enough for everyone – rich, poor, noble, common, foolish, wise, thinker, doer, writer, orator, artist, scientist, natural-born citizen, or immigrant.

Too bad Aaron Burr learned that lesson too late. At the end of the musical, he shoots Alexander Hamilton in a duel and says:

               I strike him right between his ribs.
               I walk towards him, but I am ushered away.
               They row him back across the Hudson;
               I get a drink.

               I hear wailing in the streets.
               Somebody tells me, “You’d better hide.”
               They say Angelica and Eliza
               Were both at his side when he died.

               Death doesn’t discriminate
               Between the sinners and the saints:
               It takes and it takes and it takes.
               History obliterates.
               In every picture it paints,
               It paints me and all my mistakes.
               When Alexander aimed
               At the sky,
               He may have been the first one to die,
               But I’m the one who paid for it.

               I survived, but I paid for it.

               Now I’m the villain in your history.
               I was too young and blind to see…
               I should’ve known,
               I should’ve known
               The world was wide enough for both Hamilton and me.
               The world was wide enough for both Hamilton and me.

Now, before you think I’ve just spoiled the whole musical for you, don’t worry. I absolutely did not! Aaron Burr tells you himself at the end of the opening number that he shot Hamilton. So, even if you do not remember history class well enough to know who Hamilton and Burr were and what they did – don’t worry, I was right there with you two months ago – I have spoiled nothing for you. Oh, goodness me, no… I have not spoiled a single thing. Even if you know Hamilton’s story back to front, upside down and inside out, this musical is still amazing. There is so very much to unpack. Here, we are only skimming the surface (or, really, the ending).

I have found myself crying at several moments during the last half hour of the soundtrack, and this is one of them. Half the time when I hear Burr say, “I should’ve known the world was wide enough for both Hamilton and me,” I weep. I wept the second time I heard it; I wept on the forty-second time. Hamilton and Burr were never friends. Burr was Draco Malfoy to Hamilton’s Harry… He was George Warleggan to Hamilton’s Ross Poldark (except George is the social climber here and Ross is definitely not). Alexander Hamilton was an orphan, immigrant bastard with no money or title who charmed and wrote his way to the top. Burr was the grandson of Jonathan Edwards and a wealthy farmer; his father was a Reverend, and a founder of Princeton College. Burr had wealth, big names, and a top-notch education under his belt, but he did not have the popularity that Hamilton had. He was most often not in “the room where it happens”. When he took matters into his own hands and got Hamilton out of his way, he realized that was not at all the path he should have taken. In “Your Obedient Servant” where Burr challenges Hamilton to the fateful duel, he says, “You’ve kept me from the room where it happens for the last time.” But, in fact, he would “reckon with the effects of [Hamilton’s] life on [his]” for the rest of his life. That duel ended his political career so that he never again got to be in the room where it happens. So, no, if he wanted to be in that “big ol’ room”, shooting Alexander Hamilton was not the right move.

Even though Hamilton takes place between 1776 and 1804, it is so incredibly relevant today. Our world is full of hate. There are horrific shootings, there is talk of not wanting immigrants to enter our countries, there is awful bullying in schools, there is bullying in the political sphere. We get nowhere from killing and beating down people who are different from us, people who don’t seem to belong, people that we dislike. The sooner we all realize that the world is wide enough for us all, the better. The sooner we start living like we believe it, the better.

Love is way stronger than hate. Just listen to Dumbledore and Lin-Manuel Miranda and you will know that it is true.
 
 
Links:

Read from the beginning: https://soarwithlaughter.com/2014/09/02/soar-cloud-high/

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