It’s been a long time since my last post. I do intend to catch up, but between a new baby, a job, and the building of a house, I haven’t been able to make the blog a priority. This winter I hope to write some catch up posts and get back on track.
My sister, who may be more of a renaissance man than I, started telling me about this rap musical about Alexander Hamilton a couple years ago. I listened to a few of the songs, but I didn’t really get it. Once Hamilton really started blowing up, I realized I probably hadn’t given it is due. I think the main problem I had was that despite a love for American history, I didn’t know or remember much about Hamilton. For Christmas last year, my parents got my wife and me season tickets to The Kennedy Center. They’ve been habitués of the theater for about thirty years, and generously though we’d appreciate going to shows as much as they have. They even watch the little ones while we’re out, which is honestly about all we get it, so we greatly appreciate it.
I’d only managed to read about 30% of the book before seeing the show. I highly recommend getting some context before seeing the show. At a bare minimum, read wikipedia and then listen to the songs in order. I thought the musical was absolutely incredible. It was very well done. I thought the execution of the DC cast was on par with the original, save maybe for Angelica. However, several members of my family saw the show a few weeks after I did, and they told me that an understudy had filled in for Angelica who was quite good. I thought that Washington was particular exceptional in the DC cast. The set was surprisingly simple, but I don’t think that detracted from the show in any way. I won’t waste any more time of a review as you all know its great and can’t be missed. I hope to see it again, and hear a filmed performance by the original cast my come out as a movie, which I’d love to see. The only show I’ve ever seen that had the audience as engaged and as excited is perhaps The Book of Mormon. However, The Book of Mormon is a pretty pure comedy while Hamilton really has it all.
I finished the book last night after what felt like an eternity of trying to finish it. It’s a lot of book. That’s not to say its not a page turner, but it’s definitely not a light or short read. I’ve ready 1776, and Founding Brothers. I’ve watched John Adams on HBO. Chernow’s Hamilton stands out to me as it really highlights the personalities of the founding fathers and other associates of Hamilton. I also really think it speaks to the savagery of politics and the cynicism and grim view of the human condition held by many great and influential men. In school we learn about great leaders and founders of this nation, and they’re presented as exceptional and superhuman. Chernow’s Hamilton really speaks to the flaws of these men, the failures and shortcomings, which really gives another dimension to their history and a much richer appreciation of their lives and legacies. Interestingly, only George Washington is portrayed as exceptional in both his accomplishments and integrity. Chernow makes it clear that Washington owed much of his success to Hamilton, just as Hamilton did to Washington. Really, they were indispensable to each other. But Washington stands alone as a man of unwavering character, selflessness, magnanimity, integrity, sacrifice, and optimism. He saw the good in all people, and saw beyond party politics, all while holding himself to the highest standards. He was not perfect, but his honestly and exceptionalism is not matched. Hamilton, Jefferson, Adams, and etc., while exceptional, all fall victim to the human condition. They are guilty of being petty, dishonest, of infidelities, and many similar shortcomings. In addition to dirty politics, Hamilton had other mistakes, such as the Alien and Sedition acts. Particularly remarkable since Hamilton was an immigrant. Despite these mistakes, most founders are remembered for accomplishments. Adams and Jefferson included. We know all along that Burr is the villain, but short of murder, many of the founding fathers are guilty of similar lapses in judgement and/or failings of character. While their careers and legacies are exceptional, and they weren’t regular people, they were susceptible to many of the same temptations and weaknesses of their inferiors. This seems particularly relevant in the age of Trump. While Bill Clinton may best be remembered due to the cause of his impeachment, politics in my lifetime has seemed less scandalous than during Hamilton’s time. Until now. While not comforting to me personally, perhaps because I’m too cynical or impatient, its nice to know America has been through a lot and still persevered and thrived. It makes one think that Trump too shall pass. Its hard not to draw parallels. And while the best example of a selfless public servant, especially given his recent passing, is McCain, its difficult to see how or when the reasonable and upstanding republicans like McCain will retake their party. While the book is truly an all encompassing biography, the musical seems to focus on legacy. Only a few years ago, most people probably wouldn’t name Hamilton as a founding father. Jefferson, Washington, Adams, Franklin, etc., could all probably easily be recalled, but Hamilton would probably be as forgettable as John Jay. In his own time and shortly thereafter, Hamilton may have been most infamous for his infidelity and then his duel. It’s interesting that such an accomplished man could have his legacy be something other than The Federalist Papers, the Treasury Department, Neutrality, or Abolitionism. The musical has gone a lone way towards enriching and cementing Hamilton’s legacy. Especially with current generations. But despite the book and musical, Hamilton will likely continue to be best known for the duel. A man of many mistakes, but known for one big one. It gives one pause that one can go from being remembered as a Vice President, to a murderer, in just a split second. Or a from perhaps the most accomplished founding father, to a the victim of a duel.by rsiv with