I have swooned and oo’d and ah’d over Hamilton: An American Musical for a couple of years now (I know, I was late to the game). Now that it is streaming on Disney+ July 3, 2020, I have been asked why someone should watch the show.
I am not a critical writer. I am not writing this like a critic would at all. I will share the parts that are fascinating to me that I’ve learned through reading the back stories of the writer, director, and lyricist, Pulitzer Prize winner, Tony and Grammy Award winner… and more, all for Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Alex Lacamoire, a musician, arranger, conductor, musical director, music copyist, and orchestrator, doing many of those duties with Hamilton, as well. There are a dozen more I have poked around learning about, but the show itself is what I will focus on.
Lin-Manuel Miranda came across Ron Chernow’s book Hamilton in the airport on the way to a vacation. Within 2 chapters, still on the plane, the musical began formulating in Miranda’s brain.
Alexander Hamilton struggled to climb the ladder from poverty, through education, aching for recognition and a sustainable income for his family. He had many obstacles in his way and Miranda felt his path was similar to many Black and Latinx folks in the United States today. He felt Hamilton’s story was still our story.
There was never a question of the diversity of the cast. Miranda had already done In the Heights, another (mostly Latinx) diverse show that won him 3 Tony Awards in 2008. It seemed natural to create a cast that looked like America does now. In 1775, blacks were slaves; whites ruled and were soldiers (for the most part). In 2015 while blacks were (are) in too many ways still enslaved, the face of America has changed from primarily white to more brown and black.
Therefore, if your children are not white, this can be an eye-opening experience to see people of their color in an amazing award-winning production. Even 5 years ago, the theater and Broadway were blandly white. Thankfully, that is changing and Miranda leads the charge.
The music is the music of today. Hip-Hop, Rhythm & Blues, but also shades of jazz, British pop music and gods bless the Schuyler sisters and their Destiny’s Child sound.
I have heard the album at least 200 times and I am still catching puns, humorous connections and overtones of lyrics and music that run as threads through the show. The complexity of wit, rhyme, storytelling and musical history all combined really is genius.
Which makes the realization that “My Shot” took an entire year for Miranda to write. A. Year. One song. The entire show took 6 years. One song took one year.
When Alexander Hamilton talks about not throwing away his shot, he comes across many choices and is always wanting to move up the ladder. It is also double entendre for his final dual with Aaron Burr that (not giving away anything since more than 200 years have passed already) when Hamilton did, in fact, throw away his shot (pointing his gun upward) allowing Burr’s shot to kill him. The only shot he seemed to have tossed.
Costume Designer Paul Tazewell made a brilliant decision to have the costumes as traditional clothes of the time, but has asked the actors to wear their faces and hair however they want during the show.
History repeats itself. Again and again. Perhaps not with a duel, but with the arguments that, at that moment, seem life and death (and often are), but so far, our country has bounced back and learned new ways to function (and codified them in the laws) or have fallen back onto the Constitution of the United States.
Alexander Hamilton is not seen as perfect. He is a human being with odd foibles considering the man most likely had hypergraphia or a lot of mania in Bipolar Disorder. “Why do you write like you’re running out of time” is a thread throughout the musical (“Non-Stop“). Writers use this phrase as incentive to keep writing even when it is challenging. Write like you’re running out of time! WRITE!
Dilemma for those with younger folks: I know an lot of younger kids who love Hamilton and can sing every word, even the F-word. Disney is deciding still what to do with the show… edit? or not edit with warnings. I am hoping they offer 2 choices; hope someone thinks of that. The F-word is said a couple of times, but there is a love affair with Maria Reynolds (pronounced Mariah), a brief side-step that leads to a great deal of strife that eventually rules Hamilton out of being a President in our history.
Schools are using the show as a backdrop to bring history to life. I will say I thought all that Constitution stuff was dry as toast. Until now. Once I learned the music, I read Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton, then his Washington: A Life (which I actually loved more than Hamilton!) and that period in history is now ALIVE for me! I can “see” the war, I can “feel” the conflicts, I can “experience” a life I never would have been able to before. History has come to life for students with Hamilton! ALL of history should be taught this way!
Tickets to Hamilton have been so expensive, but Lin-Manuel Miranda has a serious need to serve and saves seats for students, some of whom pay $10 for what would go as a several hundred dollar seat on the open market. (I bought my mom a ticket for the Opening Night of the Orlando cast at $490.)
EduHam is a class Miranda has helped create that is free through August in response to the Pandemic at hand. It teaches this part of history in a way students can understand… recommended for grades 6-12, but clearly many younger folks participate. Watching kids singing, dancing, creating plays around Hamilton are magnificent teachers.
All of this sounds so boring compared to the experience of Hamilton: An American Musical! The musical is picked apart in YouTube, high schools sing for us there, 3-year olds are singing “MY SHOT!”, the poetry of rap is examined as if we were looking at a miraculous artifact.
Which it is. All of it.
Even if you only watch it once, please watch it once. Open heart. Open mind. With joy for how our country was made.
Latinx is the gender-neutral alternative to Latino, Latina and even Latin@. Used by scholars, activists and an increasing number of journalists, Latinx is quickly gaining popularity among the general public. It’s part of a “linguistic revolution“ that aims to move beyond gender binaries and is inclusive of the intersecting identities of Latin American descendants. In addition to men and women from all racial backgrounds, Latinx also makes room for people who are trans, queer, agender, non-binary, gender non-conforming or gender fluid.
The “x” makes Latino, a masculine identifier, gender-neutral. It also moves beyond Latin@ – which has been used in the past to include both masculine and feminine identities – to encompass genders outside of that limiting man-woman binary.
Latinx, pronounced “La-teen-ex,” includes the numerous people of Latin American descent whose gender identities fluctuate along different points of the spectrum, from agender or nonbinary to gender non-conforming, genderqueer and genderfluid.
How I Got to “Latinx”
It took a lot of thought for me to get to the point of using Latinx in my verbal and written language.
I’ve identified as a Latina (Anglo-Cuban) for 55 years. And then my former partner Zack, my Beloved, came out trans and transitioned from female to male at the end of our marriage. I’ve been in the LGBT community since I was 17 years old, quite aware of the transfolks from drag queens (and yes, I know many do not include drag queens in the trans community), crossdressers, sissies and transitioning women, but hadn’t considered the dilemma of the gendered language of Spanish until quite recently.
I struggle with some LGBT PC issues, getting cranky at times with all the changes/additions of words for gender differences. Really had a hard time with the they-them-their pronoun discussions, but have chilled and found a place of peace with it as time has passed.
It is in my own acceptance, not even grudgingly, of the they-them-their pronouns that I chose to begin using Latinx instead of more gendered Latina and Latino.
Under the “degenderization” of Spanish advocated by proponents of words such as “Latinx” words such as latinos, hermanos, and niños would be converted into latinxs, hermanxs, and niñxs respectively. This is a blatant form of linguistic imperialism — the forcing of U.S. ideals upon a language in a way that does not grammatically or orally correspond with it.
I don’t anticipate my changing all the female and male pronouns when I speak Spanish, just the Latinx, but feel the linguistic imperialism moves in the other direction, actually re-writing, re-claiming the creation of language instead of using the language of the conquistadoran invaders from Spain… those who committed genocide of millions of people and wiping out hundreds of indigenous languages. I believe grabbing even a small bit of our heritage before the “conquest” of the Spaniards can only be a good thing.
Latinx It Is
So, as you read in my blog, you will my using Latinx. It’s a personal political statement I can make on behalf of the LGBTQ and Latinx community.
I’ve had Type 2 Diabetes since I was 34-years old… for 22 years now. My entire Cuban family had diabetes as well; skinny, fat and inbetween. My entire life, I watched my pot-bellied relatives manipulate their insulin so they could eat and drink whatever they wanted. I watched as they lost their eyesight, had heart attacks, then had feet and hands cut off from infections. My grandfather died before I was born from complications of diabetes. My grandmother, aunt, uncle all died from diabetic complications. It seems I am next on the list.
My Blood Glucoses (BGs) are almost impossible to control. I have been having to take steroids (SoluMedrol & prednisone) because of several allergic reactions lately. (One reaction was to Azo… the other to the 6th iron infusion I had… that one sent me into the hospital because I was scratching myself bloody and using scissors to scratch my back… also bloody.)
My diet is comprised of almost all carbs for a variety of medical reasons, including dental. Exercise is impossible. I am destined (doomed?) to using insulin to get my BGs under control.
Whenever I see doctors, they ask if my feet are numb, tingling or hurt. I have said no for many years. Now, however, they are beginning to hurt more and I realize the pre-pain feeling I’ve had has been like a tight sock on my right foot. Now, at night, there is distinct pain.
Besides the foot pain, I also have what seems to be untreatable diarrhea. Taking 30 Imodium a day does nothing to quell the issue. Lomotil doesn’t do a thing either. The GI Doc said I need to get the Endo to help. I see the Endo on Monday. Hope they are able to give me something else. It is distressing, always having to dash to the toilet… pretty challenging trying to work.
I have some Cymbalta from when I was rx’d it for depression and read that was one good medication for the neuropathy. Hopefully, someone will rx it (or something else) to help with the pain.
One More Medical Problem
I have an ongoing list of medical crap I am dealing with, all because of being fat. My fat life is (quite literally) piling on the complications.
I initially wrote this on my Navelgazing Midwife blog, but it needed to be shifted over to here. It was written on July 4, 2016. I remain endlessly in awe of those that responded to the call for help in saving lives on June 12 and 13, 2016.
I have wanted to write this since 3am on June 12, and every day since, but it took awhile to even begin to formulate the right words; there was simply emotion and incredible sadness hindering my fingers.
I was a midwife and doula for 32 years, holding lives in my hands many times, resuscitating babies and stemming the tide of postpartum hemorrhage in mothers. Yet I have but a whiff of what our First Responders (and others named below) experienced the night of June 12 and all these days since. I have tried to think of a way to thank these people, have an intense urge to seek each one out and hold them close to my heart while whispering, “Thank you,” over and over again.
The scope of actions from those that were there… are there… for my gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, queer and straight family, Latinx or Anglo, (for they are family to all of us) is enormous. The incredible amount of love, care, detail, sweat, tears and even shock must be acknowledged. As a care provider myself, I listened to the incredible unfolding of the hospital staff’s descriptions of their work as the waves of dying and injured flooded through their doors. I sat through their first press conference with survivor Angel Colon front and center, enraptured, yet sobbing with gratitude and awe at their choreographed and executed dance to save lives.
I know I could never begin to thank every agency that pulled together those first 24 hours, but I need to try. Each profession or organization I list is a thread in the whole, beautiful tapestry that is #OrlandoStrong.
Please feel my overwhelming love and gratitude… and know there are thousands and thousands of others who feel the same. You people, my Superheroes, are a gift to humanity. Never, never let the finger pointing touch you. Do not claim that bureaucratic static that will certainly grow to a cacophony before too long. Stay true to your knowledge that you did everything right, you saved so many. You did the very best any of us could ever have done. No, you did far, far better than most of us.
Thank you a hundred million times plus 102 to those mentioned below. If I have forgotten you, just add yourself to the list; it was merely an ignorant oversight. You, too, belong here.
Thank you to:
– The entire Orlando Police Department who risked their lives, over and over again, to save as many people as possible. I am filled with so much gratitude, my heart overflows with tears streaming down my cheeks.
– Everyone at the Orlando Sheriff’s Department who also risked their lives multiple times and kept communications between the different agencies running smoothly. I also weep with gratitude for your agency.
– Orlando’s amazing SWAT Team who found ways to get into the building to save people and then removed that evil animal from this earth. You all are incredible.
– All the tireless Paramedics who used their minds and skills, even when the solutions were unorthodox, to help save lives.
– All the Ambulance agencies that responded and tended to the wounded while getting them to the hospital as fast as possible.
– All the EMS personnel who had many roles to fulfill in saving lives.
– All 911 Dispatch Operators… my heart aches for you wondrous folks who comforted the injured and dying throughout the several-hour ordeal. You gave genuine love to those that died while you were on the line with them and helped keep others alive until help arrived. Your professionalism and note-taking will not be forgotten as the information continues being disclosed. I send you special wishes for emotional and spiritual healing from this horrific experience.
– Orlando Regional Medical Center Hospital, especially for their readiness drills that helped set them up for success with extreme situations such as this. No words can possibly express my pride in your response, care, and skill when you were least expecting it.
– The ORMC Trauma Team, all those years of study, school and thousands of hours working in the hospital and learning specialized skills culminated on June 12, 2016, saving untold lives.
– The Emergency Room Team, thank you for always being ready for anything. You were there. You were there for all of us that night.
– The dozens and dozens of Doctors – ER, OR & ICU – for utilizing everything you’ve ever learned (and things you surely had only heard about) to save so many. There really are not enough words to offer my gratitude and love for you all.
– The Orthopedics teams… your amazing skills working with the back and muscles was most assuredly crucial that night. I am sure you saved so many from being paralyzed with your gift during surgeries. Thank you so very much.
– The Microsurgeons, your extremely specialized skills surely saved so many from bodies that would be unable to feel or move properly once healed.
– The Cardiovascular & Thoracic Surgeons, your specialization was crucial with the horrific injuries to the chests of too many. Thank you for keeping so many hearts pumping.
– The beloved Nurses – Trauma, ER, Triage, OR, ICU & Surgical Recovery… it is beginning to sound trite, but I promise, I am absolutely speechless with gratitude for your gifts of kindness and skilled caring. Nothing that night (and since) could have been done without you incredible human beings. You are the Angels of Mercy.
– All the Surgeons of an endless variety, thank you for specializing in your individual areas and to the General Surgeons, thank you for attending to the multiple types of injuries that night. Thank you all for remaining strong and focused during the assembly line of cases that surely seemed never-ending at times. Your hands, in the most direct way, saved so many lives that night. Thank you.
– Residents – who used every moment of training to step in wherever you could.
– OneBlood blood bank personnel including Blood Collection sites, thank you for assuring there was ample blood at the hospitals for all the cases that needed it. Thank you, too, for opening up sites on Sunday to collect blood and organize getting that blood back to those whose lives depended on it.
– The Phlebotomy team, your job had to have been incredibly challenging that chaotic night of terror, finding veins and arteries, keeping the vials organized and then running the thousands of stat samples to the lab, over and over again… thank you for your skills and dedication.
– The Radiology team – your job was infinitely complicated by the sheer numbers of people working on each person, yet crucial to examining the patient in a life-saving manner. Thank you for knowing how to peek inside the bodies that needed so much help.
– The Respiratory Services team who were called into action to keep massively injured people breathing, either from the assault or the incredible shock and fear they were experiencing. You all are wondrous healers for those who cannot breathe.
– To Environmental Services, who were said to have cleaned and set up a room in 30-45 seconds; miraculous! It is challenging enough to keep things pristine and safe from cross-contamination under normal circumstances, but that you worked with all that blood, tissue, drapes, gauze, tubes, gloves, and then cleaning beds, rails, the floor and emptying the contaminated trash while patients were waiting for a place to lay… doing all of this in mere seconds, really is worthy of immense gratitude.
– To you amazingAnesthesiologists and Nurse Anesthetists… while I know you are highly-trained for emergencies and working with people in dire pain or unable to communicate their medical history, I am sure this night multiplied the need for your skills and knowledge dozens-fold. That you were able to anesthetize our precious friends and family so they might be saved under such circumstances is a miracle to behold. Immense gratitude.
– ToORMC Laboratory Services, the tasks thrown at you June 12 and the days immediately after had to have been enormous, yet you were there as the backbone for the entire health and safety of the injured, getting blood to whomever needed it, organizing the lab results so all providers could coordinate proper care, the list surely continues endlessly. Thank you for your amazing skill and meticulous attention to detail under extreme duress.
– To the Orlando Medical Examiners, especiallyJoshua Stephany for your immense sensitivity in keeping that madman separate from our lost souls. The unbelievable task you all gently and respectfully undertook is appreciated beyond words.
– To the Physical Therapists who began working with the survivors almost immediately so they could have as full a life as possible once they are recovered, thank you for your skills and knowledge of the body and its nuanced possibilities through movement and touch.
– To theChaplains of the Orlando Police Departmentand the others around Orlando, thank you for rushing to the spiritual aid of our First Responders, the families of the injured and dying and praying with the mass of disbelieving friends and relatives in their moments of spiritual questioning and anger towards God. Thank you for your love and patience with so much inner pain.
– To our Mental Health Therapists & Psychiatrists who flooded the different locations where families waited for news of their loved ones, knowing crisis counseling was an immediate need and you provided it, with zero regard for payment of any kind except knowing you were helping someone in emotional pain. Mental health needs will reverberate for years and years for so many of us, so thank you in advance for all you will do for everyone as time unfolds the mental and emotional anguish of this horrific night.
– To the Pharmacists at ORMC, your enormous task of providing the correct medications for scores of critically injured patients has not been overlooked. Filling order after order in the middle of the night had to have been daunting, yet when you, too, called for help, it came in in droves. Thank you for your education and extreme attention to detail.
– To the LGBTQ Center of Orlando, who immediately opened their doors to anyone who needed a place to talk, be held, cry or mourn. No words can express my gratitude for all you have done, are doing and will continue to do for our incredibly awesome and diverse community. May our Center grow as much as our hearts have for you after this disaster.
– To the Cell Phone companies for keeping those injured and dying in touch with loved ones and 911 operators.
– To those inside Pulse that struggled to save lives as the horror unfolded, who shielded others with your bodies, who comforted the injured and dying as you hid anywhere you could, who held friends as they bled to death in your arms… no amount of tears and thanks can explain how full my heart is for you beautiful people. Your unspeakable pain will never be forgotten or taken for granted. You are incredible human beings who were in a horrible situation, but your soaring kindnesses outshone any evil that man tried to snuff out. Bless all of you.
– To those who work at Pulse for your belief in human rights and dignity – you will never be forgotten… especially Barbara Poma – you are so loved.
– To the civilians who just happened to be in the area and helped the injured, comforted the dying and transported anyone they could to the hospital, thank you. Clearly, we needed you there that night.
– Special note to the Religious Community… Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, and many denominations of Christians… who pulled together to pray and offer support to all who needed it. In the days afterwards, church services were held to assist the mourners who found solace in religious healing.
One national speaker, Victoria Kirby York of the National LGBTQ Task Force, spoke at a local church service and she must be held aloft and applauded. In a sea of religions not understanding the LGBTQ community, Ms. York stunned everyone with her ability to use Scripture to affirm the LGBTQ experience and right to love who we choose. Her words were a spiritual salve for so many who have been alienated by the religions in our neighborhoods and the policy-makers’ pens.
To the hypocrites among the religious folks (you know who you are), I hope you are able to rectify the doublespeak you drooled off your tongues after our tragedy because our LGBTQ family keeps dying because of your hate and damning judgment. It needs to stop. Now.
Ongoing Love & Support
While the above list, surely not complete, reflects the care and love from only the first day or two post-massacre, I could continue for another three days thanking the multitudes of restaurants, airlines, hotels, businesses, those that brought Comfort Dogs to love on those that needed a tender doggie hug, and then the ongoing monetary donations to the Pulse GoFundMe Page.
I must also thank the rest of the United States and the World for their endless support through vigils and moments of silence for our 49 beloved murdered friends and 53 recovering victims.
Please take a moment to offer thanks to everyone I’ve mentioned and those I have forgotten to name.
And lastly, please remember the families of those who have died and been injured. Their lives are forever changed. May they find at least a moment of peace through all of our love.
To our most precious doves, we will never forget your names or who you are: