Like millions of Americans, I was transfixed by the July 4 broadcast of “Hamilton,” the brilliant and revolutionary musical about Alexander Hamilton and the birth of America, performed by a splendid diverse cast and sung in rap. The musical’s recurring theme of “I’m Not Gonna Throw Away My Shot” had multiple meanings – the ambition of the young revolutionaries to make their mark on history, and the deadly duals in which both Hamilton and his oldest son lost their lives.
This fierce mantra has extraordinary meaning for us today.
Last week my Book Club, a gathering of wonderful women and friends, traveled to a place of outrage and anger about the state of America today, along with a very real fear for the future and for our lives. This is not surprising – how is it possible to have a conversation today and not end up focusing on the extraordinary nature of this period in history? When I shared the activities I’ve undertaken to turn these events around – like election volunteering, writing and publishing, holding events – and that I was encouraged by the uprisings around the world against injustice in so many forms, I got pushback. Maybe it was just that evening, but it seemed like the prevailing sentiment was to hang onto the outrage and bitterness and pessimism that our future was already destroyed and things would only get worse. There was not an openness to taking action to try to stop it. As C3-P0 would say in “Star Wars,” the verdict was, “We’re doomed.”
Discussions with my adult children and their friends have sometimes ended up in the same place. It’s hard to plan a life, they say, when we probably won’t live past 40 because our species will probably be extinct. The good news is that they see the turmoil around them and are completely “woke” to the failures of systems and people to protect basic human rights and dignity. The not-as-good news is a tendency to disengage from the society and the institutions that have allowed these massive failure to occur, as if there is nothing to be done. Or that the efforts of one individual won’t matter.
Full confession – I’ve been there. But after two years of ranting and depression, and reading the biography of Robert Kennedy, I was inspired to look for solutions. That was the genesis of the book “Magenta Nation,” a handbook to bringing America together. We may never be a society that sits around holding hands and singing “kumbaya,” but we can do much, much better than we are doing right now and have done in the past. Yes, it’s work and it will be hard. We need goals and we need a plan, and most of all, we need hope and cooperation. But it is possible.
Back to the voices of hopelessness. OK, not to sound harsh, but this kind of defeatism is guaranteed to bring about the outcomes we all say we fear. It’s like 2016 when some people didn’t vote because they weren’t excited about their choices, thereby helping to put “45” and his minions in charge. We need to think like the tiny but brave Star War rebel forces and be willing to take on the Emperor, attack the Death Star, and even restore Darth Vader’s humanity. Remember what happened in those films? The underdogs won!
And, right now, we “rebels” aren’t even necessarily in the minority. Public outrage has not been so strong and so visible since the ‘60’s. Events, tragic as they are, are coming together to weaken the powers that got us into this mess. The demonstrations, the polling, even the pandemic are opening up possibilities for change that were unimaginable a year ago.
Yes, it’s a horrible, unnecessary tragedy that thousands of people are dying from a virus that could have been controlled, that children are in cages, that black and brown men are shot in the street, that millions are unemployed and about to become homeless while the rich game the system and get richer. But we are now at the breaking point, saying “enough.” We have the opportunity to reverse the slide into moral and fiscal bankruptcy by electing responsible leaders on November 3rd. That alone will not magically cure everything. We have a long road ahead of us. But getting rid of the incompetence, hatred and corruption that got us here, is the first step.
It will take years and decades to build the kind of society we want and to overcome the hatreds that have divided us. The urgency of climate change must be heeded with concerted, global action. The pandemic rages uncontained in America, and the economy is a mess. But as a student of history, I would point to the Great Depression and the leadership that made massive changes in our economy and society, to the 60’s and the civil rights movement and cessation of the Vietnamese War, and the sufferings of the suffragettes to win the right to vote, as stories of successful change.
None of these movements solved every problem. Institutional racism remains a cancer on America. The wealth gap is obscene. Ignoring the warnings of climate change has put us all in danger. BUT THIS IS NOT THE TIME TO GIVE UP. This is the time to fight our hardest.
So, what’s this got to do with “Hamilton?” This is NOT the time for ANYONE to throw away their shot. We should all step up to take the best shot we can to put this country, and this planet, back on track.
What will your shot be?
Interested in healing America? Order "Magenta Nation" today and get started.
Think people can’t change their beliefs? Read “Love or Loyalty” to see the power of forgiveness in healing relationships and our nation.
Wondering about how families can heal, even after death? Read “Love Eternal... One More Time” to be amused and enlightened.