Sadly, the political views in our nation seem to be divided into two groups at the moment. I know that this is a problem with a two-party system, but it feels worse than ever. Hamilton, a rap music inspired, broadway production, reminded me that division within our nation is not a recent problem. Historically, this is not the worse it has been, even though it is the worst I have ever seen.
What makes Hamilton so important?
I learned a lot of things about US History that I was either never taught, or had forgotten. I spent hours Googling and researching things to figure out the historical truth behind them. While watching Hamilton, streaming live on Disney+, I realized three fundamental truths at the exact same time.
Number one: young, scrappy and hungry
I haven’t felt the deep sentimental attachment to America during the last four years that I used to. As far back as high school, I considered myself a democrat. I was interested in American History and politics, so much so, that I was a political science major for a half a second. I considered being a White House Correspondent when I grew up and even thought about running for office someday.
When the Twin Towers fell, I was 18 years old and seriously contemplated joining the military because I was so saddened and angry and felt the need to do something for my country. I ended up staying in college, but I still cried when I heard “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
Years later, I ended up with a degree in business instead of following my dreams, but America the Beautiful still brought tears to my eyes. I remained informed and often opinionated on my political and social stances.
During my lifetime, I can remember a Republican president, a two-term Democratic president, a two-term Republican president, followed by the first black president (two-term Democrat). Regardless of their policy positions, these presidents tried to remind us of our history as a nation of states and unite us.
I felt a link to the past, watching the little maverick army that did not understand what leading would like…win. The small army that was out-gunned, out-manned, out-numbered, and out-planned won a war against a Superpower. The insignificant rebels believed in the ability of informed people to govern themselves. This thought was unimaginable back then, and yet our founding fathers created the government we see today out of their youthful ideals, their scrappy nature, and their hunger for intelligence.
I thought back on the past presidents of my life and how they made me feel like I had a shot, and I shouldn’t throw it away because people died for these ideals. They made me feel young, scrappy, and hungry. The current president does not evoke any of this emotion. Instead, he has me googling things like “how to become an ex-pat.” To be fair though, politicians have always been divisive, until they just aren’t anymore.
Number two: Foes or Bros
In ‘The Room Where it Happens’ we watch Hamilton, Jefferson, and Madison enter a room as enemies, who have ripped each other apart in every cabinet meeting.
“Two Virginians and an immigrant enter a room, diametrically opposed foes. They emerge with a compromise having opened doors that were previously closed, bros.”
The pièce de résistance? No one else knows how the game is played, but they subject us to the outcomes of the choices that get made. I can’t even count the number of times I have watched McConnell and Pelosi go for each other’s throats, only to reach a “wonderfully bipartisan” plan later.
In previous administrations, it seemed like they kept the hate better in check. I always perceived it as bantering of ideas, but maybe the truth is that they have always been foes. As Burr sings in Hamilton, “No one really knows how the parties get to yes, the pieces that are sacrificed in every game of chess.” This infighting is also not new.
Being American is supposed to mean that we decide things by electing representatives that speak for us as individuals. What the people of each state desire, though, can differ drastically. The thing that made America fundamentally different is the ability to replace whoever is in charge, without tearing each other into pieces.
Number 3: The founding fathers taught us how to say goodbye
The US government did not have an official two-term limit until 1951, when Congress passed the 22 Amendment to The Constitution. Congress had tried to pass this law over 200 times prior, but it failed each time. FDR getting elected for a fourth term was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Sarah Pruitt writes that “Washington was not bound by a two-term limit. But if he died in office, he feared it would establish a precedent that the presidency was a lifetime appointment. Instead, he stepped aside to make way for a successor, proving to future generations (and his contemporary critics) his commitment to democracy rather than power.”
In his farewell address, Washington warned about challenges that would face our fledgling nation.
But as it is easy to foresee, that, from different causes and from different quarters, much pains will be taken, many artifices employed, to weaken in your minds the conviction of this truth; as this is the point in your political fortress against which the batteries of internal and external enemies will be most constantly and actively (though often covertly and insidiously) directed, it is of infinite moment, that you should properly estimate the immense value of your national Union to your collective and individual happiness.
There have been leaders elected that I have not voted for. I disagreed with politicians elected on a local and federal level. The truth is though; they designed the system in such a way that there is no way to make everyone happy. That is an unrealistic expectation in any situation, honestly.
There are far too many individual states made up of individual citizens for everyone to get their way. That is why it is important that we know how to say goodbye, and welcome in the new president with the fervor and zeal that our ancestors welcomed the first president.
Hamilton stirred up a lot of questions for me about what it means to be an American. The biggest impact that the show and these three truths had on me, though, was the realization that I have not been proud of this country for a while. I was always proud to be an American. The idea that I have let a President who has not even completed one term, sour the love I have for my country is saddening.
Over the last four years, I have been embarrassed for my country. I have repulsed by my countrymen. I have questioned the strength of the ideals we founded this nation on. I questioned the sanity and the intelligence of those around me.
Frankly, I have been acting very American about it. I have been the rebel this time. Next time it might be you. Either way, we should be thankful that we have the ability to disagree with and change our government. The chance to be activists for the ideals we hold dear. Hamilton reminded me that there is something special about being an American, and maybe that is why I have watched it so many times.