On Sunday, we went to see Hamilton: An American Musical at the Orpheum Theater. As the Broadway nerd that I am, I was extremely excited to see – again – one of my favorite musicals. Although I recognize its many flaws, I enjoy this show because it combines beautiful music and the ironies of history. Many of the issues and debates explored during the play showcase that America today is still haunted by the very same phantoms than at its foundation.
The number “Cabinet Battle #2” depicts the debate between Secretary of State T. Jefferson and, Secretary of Treasure A. Hamilton on the issue of neutrality of America in France’s revolution. In the last verses of the song, Hamilton raps “If we try to fight in every revolution in the world, we never stop. Where do we draw the line”? I smirked at this replica; it underlined in the plus two hundred years debate on the role of America in the world scene. To intervene or not to intervene, that is the USA’s question. And although, this country foreign policy has evolved and transformed over the years, its compromise or need to help fights for democracy – or supposedly – has persisted. Even today, the topic on America’s role in the global scene is still up for debate and thus every time there is civil or military unrest, this country falls down the same rabbit hole than Jefferson’s and Hamilton’s. Under this vision, one could argue that the origin of manifest destiny can be traced back to 1789.
Another historical parallelism depicted in this play is the political polarization of the government. Often I hear in the news that we live in an age of extreme polarization. Yet, seeing Hamilton, I could not help to notice that the newly formed American people were as divided than it is today – or almost. The fights about foreign policy, wall street, and political substitution have carried over the years. In both cases, the cabinet fracture has bled into the media. In the times of the founding fathers, they would express their disdain in op-eds in newspapers and, today over twitter. Needless to say, the first ones were much more eloquent. Maybe one day Trump’s tweets will become an elaborated number for a groundbreaking musical. It took Lin Manuel Miranda seven years to write his second Tony-awarded play and it opened in 2016. And although the theater is a place to escape from reality for a few hours, during the last presidential campaign the performance was a more eloquent – and much less depressing – mirror of the American political reality.
Overall, Hamilton: An American Musical, is one more example of the American dream. The theater burst in cheers at the line “Immigrants we get the job done” during “Yorktown (The World Turned Upside Down)”. Hamilton was an immigrant from Saint Kitts and Nevis that ended in the $10 bill. It is a tale about pulling oneself by the bootstraps – even if the myth is in its death bed and the cases of success are less and less common, it is still real. The author of the play is the vivid illustration of it.
History is cyclical, nevertheless, if we fail to learn from it, like America, we will continue to repeat the same mistakes.
“Man and History are one; it is Man that makes history, but it is History that made man”. – Vercors