Like tens of millions across America, we watched and reveled at Hamilton yesterday. As a creative, I'm always spellbound by a really well done multimedia event like a musical. But to hear one of our origin stories recast by the present with such creativity and innovation was simply dazzling. It seemed a perfect kickoff for what surely is among the more reflective and tumultuous national birthdays of my life.
I am always grateful for this day, for it set in motion my good fortune to have even the opportunity to "struggle with the sticky problems" of our time. I have learned more since the last one; particularly about the Reconstruction and what its failure set into a new layer of concrete firmament that stubbornly persists. Oddly enough in this cauldron of division and turmoil, perhaps we find ourselves more keenly focused towards doing the real work of making those lofty ideals a reality, even as we despair of the necessary rancor that comes with a real reckoning about how much of the journey remains. Our history is in no danger of being erased, like the post-Reconstruction, the 1920s or the Civil Rights Era, but it IS finally being properly contextualized. Slowly and painfully, but perhaps at long last more honestly. And some of the history that we've tried very hard to erase is also stubbornly clinging to life.
I am learning what it really means to be American, the whole story. I'm ok with that, and with that same good fortune I'll likely spend the rest of my life learning. It's necessary, because if we really believe in those radical and inspiring words from long ago, there will always be work to do. It's clear on this 4th of July that there are yet miles to go before we sleep, and fellow travelers in trouble on the way. Onward then; sleeves rolled up like Rosie the Riveter, resolute and unyielding like John Lewis and the marchers on the bridge. Let's keep doing the work, for however unattainable those ideals might seem today, they are worthy of every bit of that labor.
(Hot tip - if you haven't seen it, I highly recommend spending sometime with PBS series The Reconstruction this weekend. Especially when it feels like 110 degrees at 3 in the afternoon and you want to be in with the AC on.
With gratitude to Heather Cox Richardson for the inspiration of her morning letter of July 3rd, which she posts daily on Facebook.