Broadway is a marvelous arm of the entertainment industry. When it gets it right it is a proponent of the best that art and literature can offer, transcending the realm of entertainment, rising to an experience that lifts the soul, lightening the heart, firing the imagination, bringing us to face ourselves, to face our demons and angels, while touching the humanity in each of us. In essence, the Broadway experience of transcendence, be it at a musical or a play, rare as it is, is quintessentially a human endeavor. The viscerality of live actors taking the risks they do to perform their stories is a heightened form of entertainment. Audiences give themselves over to the fantasy, indulge in the imaginary circumstances and allow the work of art to transport them to wherever they go. Unlike in the movie theatre, a live performance is an experience felt person to person, not person to screen.
But when Broadway gets it wrong it can be damaging and destructive. Broadway is telling lies. Broadway is deaf to logical and reasonable questions and criticisms. Broadway is raking in billions of dollars from one hit show that is lying to the ravenously adoring children who are soaking in the hip hop music and color-blind casting of a popular story about America’s Founding Fathers. This is dangerous, this miseducation which stems from the lies about Alexander Hamilton, George Washington, and the rest of the white men who had a significant impact on the founding of the American nation. What’s odd is that all the conventional PC cultural warriors are mute on this subject, even as they are calling for reparations for blacks effected by the slavery these founding fathers supported and engaged in in various manners.
I have previously written about this musical, its ironies, omissions and timing which made it the phenomena that it is. Although I had little company to keep while being critical of this mega musical, nobody has come forward to say that I was wrong. Silence, at times, can be seen as accord. As much as many did not like my tearing down of Hamilton, nobody was willing to argue or debate the subject. In short, there is no argument to be made. Alexander Hamilton and the rest of what we would today call the “good ‘ol boys” in that musical, to the very last one of them, were slave holders, were not abolitionists in any way, and are responsible for their deeds. But the musical tells an opposite story that is wrong. By omitting these facts, it also is complicit in erasing the God forsaken cancer that these founding fathers brought forward to eradicate Indians, keep women down, and to keep out immigrants and keep their slaves.
But now, another play has emerged and wants to make it to Broadway, The Haunting of Lin-Manuel Miranda. It’s author, award winning Ishmael Reed is no slouch to writing, nor to controversy. Reed brings the full force of a great literary mind to his play which depicts the ghosts of Hamilton, those who were left out, to haunt Lin Manuel Miranda, Hamilton’s author, and try to bring him to his senses.
But what I want to explore here is what happens to children when they are lied to while soaking in a fabulous piece of entertainment which they take as truth? Much has been made about the fact that Hamilton is turning kids on to history. But what kind of history? History that is molded into a narrative to serve profit is disgusting, but that is exactly what Hamilton is. It is befitting in ways – Good Alex was a profit-seeking man by all accounts. Gore Vidal wrote in his 1973 best-seller Burr, “He might have been president had he turned to the people he came from, to the mechanics who had the vote, to the men in the taverns who could appreciate in him their own selves made larger by intellect and cunning. But Hamilton wanted no part of lower orders. He rejected his own origins and consorted only with the well-born and the rich, serving them truly and himself, at the end, not at all.” (pg. 198) Miranda possibly fell into a trance while writing Hamilton and followed his footsteps unwittingly. Indeed, one can empathize with Miranda, as Reed does in his play; Reed considers him a sympathetic character and not a villain.
Yet, none of the lies and omissions Hamilton spews are hidden from public view; the truth is abundant and easy to access for all. Yet, almost none are turning to it. Thank God for Reed, and the others who are leading the charge to fix this false narrative.
I would guess nearly one-hundred percent of parents would say they do not want their children lied to about history. I would also guess that universities of higher education and the lower levels as well, would say they would not tolerate lies to be told in their history classes. Yet, where are all the parents and educators here? Why aren’t parents everywhere calling out the lies and omissions of this musical to serve their children’s best interests? Where are the educators of higher, and lower education calling out the lies of Hamilton? Why aren’t they defending their institutions and the integrity of truth telling? Here’s my guess.
Parents first off do not know better. Most parents were educated in government schools that spew untrue stories as history. Hence, they are used to it. They still believe that Abe was the great emancipator when in reality he thought blacks were inferior to whites and should not live in the same society together. Abe’s words are disgustingly clear that he was prejudiced. And careful before you jump on my statement, I can show you the evidence. But most parents do not touch a history book once they graduate, and while in school, most stayed as far away from history as possible, as it is considered a dry and boring subject for most students. Ask yourself and your parents, how many history books have you read lately? Look it up, the statistics about reading in this country are declining to historical lows.
Of course, the academicians can’t say that nor use that same alibi. Or can they? They are also educated by the same government schools, and unless they are historians, they probably too have not opened a history book in years. Having recently secured a master’s degree from a liberal studies program from the State University of New York, I can attest to the intolerance of the left leaning institution to allow questions of its narratives. If there is a way to push liberals away from liberal studies, the universities are becoming proficient at it. Having been raised in a liberal household, and supporting liberal ideas my whole life, I find it highly disturbing that I cannot support much of what the liberals are doing these days as they become more and more intolerant of the very thing that makes liberal thinking exquisite: questioning the official narrative from a deep perspective of truth seeking. I never associated with either party, as I was inclined to think independently, yet I did consider myself a liberal. Now, after the drastic liberal turn toward intolerance, I cannot align with either liberals or conservatives. I dance between the lines, with few friends of understanding, riding the extreme waves of 2019 solo.
But would I find independent thinking so easily today if I were a kid? Certainly, it would be a much more difficult challenge. For kids today, Hamilton’s kind of white-washing of history is dangerous because it hides history and therefore is more apt to be repeated. It also gives kids a false sense of righteousness about the beginnings of our country. Where are the left liberals decrying this white-washing? They won’t touch this subject because they are basking in the highly ironic light of color-blind casting. Because this white washing is told almost exclusively by blacks and other minorities, they forgot to look at the truth.
They are also busy taking down confederate statues, erasing another side of history that they do not like. They are pushing a narrative that blacks lack equal opportunity yet everyday blacks are achieving great success. They are pushing a narrative of white privilege even though logically this is false – whites underachieve just as blacks do and at the same time blacks succeed just like whites do. Identity politics is a narrow and limiting way of perceiving the world. We used to be taught not to stereotype by using generalities, rather, we should look at individuals. This kind of clearer thinking is dead today.
Kids are being forced and coerced into these PC boxes that omit real critical thinking with an open mind that will question the very fabric and foundation of the teachings. As the great Broadway writer, inarguably one of the top writers, certainly one that makes his audiences think and not just sit back and be entertained, Stephen Sondheim says, education is about stimulating curiosity. Period.
But today kids are more force-fed than ever. They have little silent time, little alone time, little time for daydreaming, little time of face to face interactions, but they have lots and lots to memorize and regurgitate on their ever-growing tests. Even if they wanted, students today have little time to question their teachers.
Is this what we want? What are the ramifications for these kids as they turn into adults? What happens when we turn our kids into followers rather than leaders? What result will come of the leaders actually following? And what next big hit Broadway show will come roaring down the tracks complete with more inaccuracy, omissions and lies? Where does this lead? Does anyone care?
Reed does. And so do a small minority of others. I hope his play has its day in the sun so it can air out the history of Hamilton for all to experience. If they want to. Will they want to? Will they give it a chance, or will it be vilified by the media and taken as truth from the masses?
Broadway is a business, it is all about the bottom line regardless of the fact that it presents works of art. It is our responsibility to keep it real, keep it honest, and keep it from miseducating our children. For my tiny little part, while working on Hamilton last year for six months with my cast of children, I informed them of the omissions, the lies, and the ironies. They got to hear another side. Then they got to decide for themselves.