Thursday, April 7, 2011

Hamilton's America

Please read this wonderful review by Michael Knox Beran of a new documentary film about the American founder, Alexander Hamilton.  Read it for what it tells you about the film, but even more so for what it tells you about America.

Beran begins with this sentence:
T.S. Eliot, in his essay on Kipling, said that the outsider, if he happens to be “alarmingly intelligent,” has a “peculiar detachment and remoteness” that enables him to see the places through which he passes more clearly than the natives do.
As you would expect, Beran attributes that unique degree of intelligence and detachment to Hamilton himself, but, as I witnessed in person recently, these qualities remain available and apparent today in even more humble personages.

A couple of weeks ago, I was stuck (that's the right word) for eights days in Bogota, Colombia.  The circumstances of my stay there lead to a dinner one night with, among others, two working-class men, a native Colombian who spoke good English and who was interested in all things American, as well as a Cuban American who had come to the US from Castro's Cuba in 1969 when he was 12 years old.

At one point during the dinner conversation, the Colombian said something that revealed not only his intense admiration for, and envy of, the broad opportunities easily available to every American, but also his fundamental inability either to quite comprehend or even believe that such opportunity was possible for a working-class man like himself.  I remarked that, in the US, a kid reared solely within the material circumstances afforded by nothing more than a welfare check could nevertheless tell you that he would someday be president and no American would for that reason alone dismiss out of hand as impossible his intention.  At this, the working-class Cuban American, who shared a Latin heritage with the Colombian and who had experienced, personally, the non-American side of that heritage in Cuba as a boy, nodded at me in knowing agreement.

I think this Cuban American, like many insightful immigrants, shared with Alexander Hamilton an appreciation of America that might not be fully available to a native, a richer appreciation of not only what it is, but also of how different it is, exceptionally different.

To Hamilton's credit, he sensed the difference, or, better, the possibility of the difference, and then, along with many other great men and women, set about the hard work of making it so.  God bless him for it.


  1. I'm proud to say I had a hand in this film - -I vetted the script and offered many suggestions along the way. It's about as far removed from a Ken Burns documentary as you can get, but in an odd way it succeeds in bringing Hamilton to life.....

  2. You anticipated my question Blue State Patriot. I look forward to it.

    By the way, I just got back from the Pittsburg Pirates home opener. No joy in Mudville, however. Rockies over Bucs 7-1.

  3. "The Best Team Ever"
    $163 Million

    "The Best Starting Rotation in Baseball"
    $72.3 Million

    "An 0-6 Start"

  4. It's a loonnnggg season. When they win 12 of 15, I'll remember why I'm not feeling sorry for them or their fans.

  5. Not buying it.... They are vastly overrated in that Josh Beckett, Dice K, and John Lackey are not winners. Two of them may have been in the past, but no longer, and one never was.....