Monday, August 8, 2016

Hamilton, Part 2

Well, my audiobook expired from the library before I could finish, leaving me stuck at Washington's Farewell Address for a few weeks, but here's my random thoughts so far:

  • Madison and Hamilton started out as friends and allies before dissolving into political enemies. Chernow has mentioned several times that Jefferson and Madison were BFFs, I'm waiting to hear if that had anything to do with the split. Update: doesn't seem to be any particular drama around the split, just politics. Disappointed.
  • I cant help being amused at the character pairs that are played by the same actors in the musical: Lafayette and Jefferson, the Frenchman and Francophile; Mulligan and Madison, the friend and ex-friend-turned-political-enemy; Laurens and Phillip, BFF and son; Peggy and Mariah Reynolds, sister-in-law and seductress (which at first is just awkward, but when you toss in the relationship with his other SIL it gets really tangled). 
  • I love the way that Washington has become our King Arthur. Several years ago I read Orson Scott Card's Alvin Maker series. The setting of Colonial America was so immersive and OSC laid the patriotic nostalgia on so thick when building his fantasy world that I didn't quite realize how far into alt history the story was going. Halfway through the book a character brags about seeing "the sword that cut off George Washington's head", and it was such a powerful drop-kick into the uncanny valley that it's stuck with me for years. 
Lin-Manuel Miranda guided me back from that valley with the line from Yorktown: "I see George Washington smile". The mere invocation of the name was such a powerful statement; if George Washington is smiling, all is good with the world. I've been thinking that modern America's mythology is all tied up in comic book heroes, but there's apparently still plenty of room for our historical figures as well.

  • Now that we're neck-deep in election season, I've had the lyrics from "The Election of 1800" stuck in my head all day:
Jefferson or Burr? We know it's lose-lose
Jefferson or Burr? But if you had to choose 
And I'm grimly amused to discover that voters have been bellyaching about presidential candidates since pretty much the birth of the country (1800 is the fourth presidential election?). It doesn't make me feel any better about the current candidates, but the perspective helps a bit.

  • Cabinet Battle #2 really bothered me, because Jefferson made it sound like America in general and Hamilton specifically were tossing their French friends under the bus by refusing to send aid in their war against Britain. I assumed there were details that made it more understandable, and this was the case. Turns out the post-Revolution government that was asking for aid had by that point imprisoned, executed or exiled most of the French officers and aristocrats who had helped in the American Revolution (not to mention beheaded the king who agreed to the support in the first place). I'd also forgotten how horrifically bloody the mob rule of the French Revolution was; jumping into bed with them at that point would have been difficult to stomach indeed.
  • I just mentally equated Washington/Hamilton with Dumbledore/Harry. Not a perfect analogy, but now it cannot be unthought. I suspect this is no accident b/c one of the best things about LMM aside from his musical genius is that he's basically as big a nerd as many of his fans.

Ok, your reward for making it to the bottom of the page is my major internet find for the week: the annotated lyrics of the entire Hamilton album over at Genius. This. This is exactly what I've been looking for to feed my Hamilton mania. And it's endorsed by LMM himself, who occasionally drops in to clarify and confirm. * fangirling intensifies *

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