Carrie and I experienced the play, “Hamilton” this past weekend.
Hamilton is simply the best live production I’ve experienced. Now, I’m no theatre critic; I’m a regular Joe who enjoys a show. Still, Hamilton threw it down on so very many levels.
And while the play and the actual history ends so tragically, on so many levels, I left so very inspired, enlightened, and aware.
Oh, we are all immigrants!
That’s America’s start and our American soul despite the “presidential” rhetoric about “they’re sending us their worst across their borders.” Despite this temporary racism by the man who should far better lead us in unity, America was built by people of the whole world who sacrificed, or as slaves forced to sacrifice, everything to begin a new life building what became our lives now.
In Hamilton’s character, we see the best traits so often seen in the extremely hardworking and committed immigrants who to this day arrive on our shores, working to better their lives. And we see these same traits in the strivers among us, long already here:
Says, Aaron Burr:
“How does a bastard, orphan, son of a whore and a
Scotsman, dropped in the middle of a forgotten
Spot in the Caribbean by Providence, impoverished, in squalor
Grow up to be a hero and a scholar?”
Replies John Laurens:
“The ten-dollar Founding Father without a father
Got a lot farther by workin’ a lot harder
By bein’ a lot smarter
By bein’ a self-starter”
Oh yeah. We get ahead by being self-starters, by working a lot harder.
A great continuing theme of the play is gratitude: Says, Eliza, “Look around, look around at how lucky we are to be alive right now.”
“Look around, look around”: Your homes and cities today are built by immigrants who too often cannot afford them for yourselves.
“Look around, look around:” Your homes are cleaned, your gardens kept, by those arrived to simply work their way up to opportunity.
“Look around:” Your meals cooked, your dishes cleaned, your food grown and harvested, all by immigrants, legal and illegal, arrived on our shore, arrived on our side, to work harder, to get smarter, because they’re self-starters.
These aren’t the “their worst that they’re sending us,” as the fear-baiter in chief agitates: These are our brothers and sisters “getting farther by working a lot harder,” like the immigrants of Hamilton’s time.
The Hortons are fortunate enough to have house cleaners help us once a week. We’ve known this couple for nearly twenty years now. They arrived under political asylum from El Salvador, seeking nor more than peace and safety and a place to work and get ahead.
After years of work they bought their own home in the SCV. Today, their daughter attends UCLA. One generation, up the ladder, an opportunity earned by immigrant parents taking their shot at a new life.
You and I may not be direct immigrants, but our stories may not be much different. From very working-class parents working their lives away – we become first to complete college and “rise up, rise up” as Hamilton sings in the play. We’re the sons and daughters of immigrants “getting farther by working a lot harder…”
Sings Hamilton, as the key theme of the entire play:
“I am not throwing away my shot
I am not throwing away my shot
Hey yo, I’m just like my country
I’m young, scrappy, and hungry
And I’m not throwing away
One shot is often all we’ve got, and immigrants more than most, know this the most. Determined, unfazed, facing adversity like Hamilton; enduring the pain of a hurricane, they come to our country not knowing the suffering they’ll have to overcome. But they do. Immigrants out-work, out-strive, and often out-achieve the comfortable ones who’ve been coddled already from the work of the generations before them. They’re young, they’re scrappy, and they’re “not throwing away their shot.”
And neither will I.
By the play’s end, I felt more committed than ever to build up, rise up, with the “shot” I still have in life. So many Americans worked and died and suffered before you and I, we just can’t give away our shot.
“This is not a moment, it’s the movement
Where all the hungriest brothers with something to prove went
Foes oppose us, we take an honest stand
We roll like Moses, claimin’ our Promised Land”
Oh, let’s make the most of our shot in our Promised Land.
Says, General Lafayette to Hamilton:
Monsieur Hamilton –
Replies General Hamilton:
LAFAYETTE: Hamilton, you’re in command where you belong
HAMILTON: How you say, “no sweat.” We’ve had quite a run. (They’d just defeated the British in Yorktown)
Together, Lafayette and Hamilton, high fiving:
Immigrants: “We get the job done!”
Yes, look around, look around. Immigrants get the job done. There are no Native Americans save for true Natives. We are immigrants. All of us – the newer ones and older ones.
Said President Obama, “There is not a Black America and a White America and Latino America and Asian America—there’s the United States of America.”
Congress appointed on July 4, 1776, “E pluribus unum.” We are from many, one.
We are all immigrants. We get the job done! And we’re not throwing away our shot!
Look around, look around: As appreciative immigrants, let’s get the job of “liberty for all” – done!
FYI: Hamilton is returning to Costa Mesa starting May 8. Incredibly, tickets are still available without scalping. Just go see it. Really.
Gary Horton is a Santa Clarita resident. His column, “Full Speed to Port!” appears Wednesdays in The Signal.