On Hamilton, History, and the Immigrant Experience

It’s been roughly a year since Hamilton came into my life. I have never been the same. As a history buff and broadway nerd, it didn’t take long (approximately one listen of the album all the way through that ended in me sprawled on my kitchen floor speechless) to become completely obsessed.

Why though? What was it about this musical that felt like a lightning bolt to the heart?

It’s not a difficult question to answer. Putting aside all the personal reasons, Hamilton is — by any and all accounts — an unprecedented work of art. A masterpiece of musical fusion. A genius blend of genre. A lyrical whirlwind of language.

It appeared, in the most unexpected way, amidst a chaotic cultural landscape — a remedy we didn’t even know we needed. It allowed our most marginalized people to take back the narrative of our history — a visual our world needed to see.

The essence of Hamilton is about legacy — building something that’s going to outlive you. And in true meta-fashion, that’s exactly what this musical will do.

This is a story with a message that needs to be told. Now more than ever.

It’s easy to forget how young we are. And how goddamn unprecedented we were as a country. No one had ever done what we did in quite the same way. No one has been able to emulate it since. At every step along the way, a million things could have gone wrong. Even the hero of our story himself wasn’t always on the right side of history.

Humans tend to look at the past through rose-colored glasses, and that’s all the more amplified in a historical context — narratives we can only trust to be true from the contemporaries of the time who survived long enough to tell the story.

So of course, it’s easy to look back and see the inevitability of it all. Our history textbooks tell it so concisely. As if there was no other way this story could have ended.

And only upon closer examination does one realize how extraordinarily lucky we were. We surpassed all expectations and grew to become everything our founders imagined and more.

I am grateful to Hamilton for calling attention to our history at the moment we needed it the most. And not just the musical — Ron Chernow’s biography deserves a good chunk of the credit. By telling the story of Alexander Hamilton in the context of our new nation, the book is a humbling (and detailed) reminder of every intuition and mistake and sacrifice that birthed this country. And how many different ways it could have played out.

Our textbooks tell a checkered history. But we should never forget that some of the most influential figures of our country’s founding were immigrants. That some of our most impassioned supporters came from abroad. That not only did they bring that passion but they brought their talents and perspectives and unmatched brilliance, and our country came into being because of them. And Hamilton doesn’t just tell their stories. It lets them live it.

There’s something about seeing the people whose freedoms have been consistently abused, win the freedom of our country.

I look at our country today, and I’m damn proud. I am an immigrant. And my love for my home country does not eclipse or diminish my love for this one.

But you can love something and still want it to be better. And this year more than ever have I been aching for this country to be better. I don’t just want the world our founders envisioned — I want that and more. I want that and better.

You know what doesn’t matter? Where you are born. You know what does? What you choose to do with your life and how you give back to the world that took you in.

This country took me in. I will forever be grateful. I have had the unique opportunity to grow and learn and adapt to two distinct cultures. And that’s what I want to give back to my world.

And that is what Hamilton reminded me. Our country was built on immigrants. It was created in the minds of visionaries who foresaw our potential and did everything they could to make sure it became reality.

The story of America is one that needs to be told. But it needs to be told from every perspective. Our history has lessons, and we need to listen. Our history reminds us that we’re so young, and we still have so much to learn. Our history proves that success comes from the inclusion of different perspectives and backgrounds. Our history knows how easily everything could have derailed, and how much more valuable our story is because of it.

America Then needs to remind America Now that for all our centuries of success, we are an unfinished symphony — still beautiful, still strong, still great. But always striving to be better.

Just you wait.


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