Three weeks. Twenty-one days. That is how long this post has been percolating in my head. The day before July 4th I had the privilege to witness the musical Hamilton live in New York City. The experience was literally breathtaking. I could not breathe for a moment when the lights dimmed and the orchestra played the opening strains of the first number. But this piece is not about Hamilton, well, not exactly. I know I’m being vague. Believe it or not I started this off with the intention of being direct.
When I got back to Ottawa from my weekend in NYC I had a phone conversation with one of my sisters, one of my two Littles to be specific, and since we both share a love for Broadway we discussed the musicals I saw. When we spoke about Hamilton I asked her a question – who would I be in the universe of Lin-Manuel Miranda‘s musical adaptation of American History? I figured I already knew the answer. The high school teacher I had for law taught us to never ask a question we did not already the answer to, but I still asked, if only because my Littles know me well, and I respect their opinions a great deal. To say her answer surprised me is an understatement. “Alexander Hamilton,” she stated and with those two words she brought my pacing in the Humanities lounge to an abrupt halt. I casually interjected that I figured myself more for an Aaron Burr type. It was her response of, “Why?” that caught me off guard.
Ever since I began my love affair with Hamilton I figured myself to be Burr. I don’t mean to imply that I’m a genius or that I’m an American Founding Father reincarnated in the body of a twenty year old Canadian Humanities student, what I mean is just that – I am like Burr. I avoid meanings quite well when I want to. I know how to straddle the fence. I am the first one to reach for a compromise or a strategy that is made up of logic and public approval more than it is comprised of bold strokes. At least I thought I was, when I heard the song “Wait For It” ring out in the Richard Rodgers Theatre I identified with its lyrics.
I wait for things. I wait for the right time, the right moment, and the right opportunity – I even wait for the bus. I wait and watch the world pass me by sometimes. Except for the times when I don’t, as helpfully pointed out by my Little. She cited several situations where I acted, took charge, or otherwise called the shots much like Hamilton would have if he were in my place. Eventually, we settled on the idea that I am a hybrid of Burr and Hamilton, which pleases me more than I expected. I would like to think that I
can will speak out when the moment demands it and that brings me back to my point. Perhaps you’ve pinpointed it? If not that’s okay, I have not yet made my message clear.
Each day of the year I find myself surrounded by many intelligent or educated people – professors, students, university staff, and the people on the bus I take home – most of them stand for something. Regardless of whether you take their opinions as correct or incorrect they stand for something. I fear that over the years I’ve let the Burr part of me keep me from standing up for a lot of things. Fear of judgement and public perception is often what reigns in my tongue when I would rather call someone out.
Yes, there is a time and place for certain things and certain discussions but protocol and courtesy only hold purpose when respected by both parties in a conversation (or a disagreement, debate, or argument). These people that surround me push me to stand up and to embrace my inimitability and originality. I am a voice, yes, only one voice, but still a voice that should be heard. Actually, I don’t believe that – my voice (or at least others like it) can be heard everyday online, in print, and on the television. I have a duty to help other peoples’ voices be heard – that I believe. It’s easier for a young, white, university student to speak out than it is for almost anyone else unless of course you’re an adult white male, then your deck is really stacked.
I often refrain from commenting on issues I do not understand. I thought that my tactic was merely good sense, how can you contribute an opinion without having all of the facts about something? I felt that way until I reread my ‘About Me’ page for this blog. I wrote about my desire to not debate anything until I felt myself well-versed in both sides of the argument. That’s when I stopped reading – how ridiculous – we can never know everything. There will always be conflicting accounts. What matters are our reactions. Our willingness to make amends, to right wrongs, and to stand up and speak, speak until we understand what is going on and how it can get better – that’s what matters. We need to learn and talk at the same time. My former philosophy basically paints me as a bystander and how I abhor that idea. As my father would say I was, “[h]olding the bully’s coat,” meaning that I did nothing under the guise of doing something. I don’t want to do that anymore. I don’t want to take a backseat to life. But I don’t want to go full on Hamilton either. I want to keep my ears and mind open to the people around me. I want to push myself out of my comfort zone and I want to go toe to toe with someone on an issue I’m passionate about when the moment arises.
Yes, this is about the Black Lives Matter movement, it’s about the shootings that have and continue to take place all over the United States claiming innocent lives be they police officers or regular citizens, it’s about Trump, it’s about the sexism that dogs Clinton on the campaign trail, it’s about Leslie Jones & Twitter, it’s about Munich, it’s about Kabul, and it’s about Nice, France. It’s about everything that is and will keep happening in world. I am afraid, not for myself, but for all of us. Who are we? What is happening to us? I do not pretend to know everything about the topics I mentioned above – if someone wants to talk to me about any of them, please feel free, I am willing to listen and learn. What I am no longer looking to do though is wait for the right moment for everything because there is never a right moment. Truth be told this is a moment and soon another one will be along to take its place. Nothing is constant except for change.
A friend of mine, someone I have great respect for, recently took to Facebook to propose that there are no right answers in our society. That all we’re fighting for ends up being linked to semantics, ethics, or any other such undeterminable concept. I see the point. I agree, to an extent. I don’t think that there are answers per say for the questions we ask the universe. But, just perhaps, there are right answers and we simply have not been asking the right questions.
So, this is me, a proud Burr/Hamilton hybrid, signing off on another blog post. Thank you for reading.