Hamilton and the Transpartisan Movement.
Posted by Jl Rodriguez on April 23, 2016 at 1:32 PM
You may have heard of a little-known play, Hamilton: An American Musical. It has won several major awards, from a Grammy to- most recently a Pulitzer for best drama. There is no doubt of Hamilton's status as a juggernaut. Sold out until 2017, many critics are calling it the 'best play you will ever see.' On Wednesday, April 13th, I saw for myself why this show is unlike anything you'll ever get to experience. Hamilton is a hip hop musical about the youngest founding father, Alexander Hamilton. If that sounds odd to you, you are not alone. The story of how Hamilton came to be is full of twist and turns. Lin-Manuel Miranda, the writer of Hamilton, first rapped the title song of the show (or what then was supposed to be a mixtape) at the White House in front of Barack and Michelle Obama. "I'm going to perform a piece of someone I think embodies hip hop, Secretary of Treasury Alexander Hamilton." Everyone laughed at the absurdity, but by the end of the song, President Obama and the rest of the audience gave Lin-Manuel a standing ovation. The word 'unlikely' essentially sums up the beast that Hamilton has become. It made America's early history relevant to a younger generation. Founding fathers are now cool. Unlikeliest of all, it has brought together people from all background, from the poor to the rich, from the young to the old, from the east to the west, and from Democrats to Republicans. President Obama even joked that Hamilton might be the only thing that Dick Cheney and he can agree on.
The musical's journey, while unprecedented, it has all the ingredients that are weaved into American's history. We are a nation of unlikely events happening when the odds are stacked against us. 'Unlikely' is the underlying sentiment throughout all major events in America: the American Revolution, the abolition of slavery in the Civil War, Women's Suffrage, the Great Depression, World War II, the Civil Rights Movement, the LGBT Rights Movement, etc. That sentiment remains in today's politics. 'Unlikely' is a word often use when describing the transpartisan movement and what it stands for. We've come to believe that incessant bickering and stubbornness is just the way it works on Capitol Hill and it has no remedy. Hopelessness is almost synonymous to any conversation that speaks of an intention to change things. But if history teaches us anything, is that impossible often leads to possible.
In Act II, Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton were almost sworn enemies from the moment they met. They were both brilliant, passionate, men who wanted the best for the country. They disagreed so often that thanks to them we have the two party system America is so famously known for. The Federalist versus the Democratic-Republican. The stakes at that time were higher than ever. Any decision could make or break the country. And at many points, a compromise between both parties seemed even more unlikely than defeating the British Empire. Yet, following the pattern of United States' penchant for unlikelihood, Hamilton and Jefferson participated in the Great Compromise of 1790. In the play, they show how Hamilton got his wish of establishing a federal bank, in exchange Madison and Jefferson got their wish of having the nation's capital be in Virginia. This compromise helped shaped the super power that the United States is today. Aside from its core message, Hamilton: An American Musical shows its audience that compromise is not a dirty word. While being passionate and standing up for what you believe in is important, it just as imperative acknowledging - that for the greater good - sometimes you have to be able to sit down with those you disagree with and work towards finding that common ground.
As I sat in the Richard Rodger's theater, during intermission, it became crystal clear that one of the reasons Hamilton has resonated so much with a 21st-century audience, was because the story was relatable. It ceased to be a story of old people fighting for a country, and it became a story of us, fighting with them, in the revolution. During Act I, the audience witnessed how a young nation beat an empire. Something deemed impossible at that time, and that till this day still has that air of improbability. Take the context out of Act I, and the lyrics could apply to any movement that is/were fighting giants. The magic of Hamilton is seeing a group of people come together and with persistence and passion 'turn the world upside down'. When a society comes together to demand change, to work towards a better future, the unlikely becomes likely. What once was impossible is possible. What I took away from that night of April 13th was, that nothing is set in stone and while people may say: 'this will never change' 'Hyperpartisanship is how things work now' 'Compromise is unattainable' 'Gridlock is the way of American politics', it does not mean that has to be our reality moving forward. We CAN work towards a functioning democracy. We CAN be a government for the people, by the people. We CAN have respect, open-mindedness and willingness to learn from our counterparts as core values in our government (and daily life).
"I'm not throwing away my shot" is a motif repeated throughout the play. You have to take chances and you have to fight for what you believe in. "You get nothing if you wait for it." And as Election Day quickly approaches, one thing is certain. On that voting ballot, and in the decades to come, this country cannot throw away it's shot.