Who tells your story?

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Some of you may already be aware of the fact that I’m currently quite obsessed with the Broadway sensation currently travelling to the UK, a rap musical about on of the Founding Fathers of the USA – Hamilton. It seems hilarious when I tell it like that, but believe me or not, it’s actually phenomenal.

As I said, the musical is about one of the Founding Fathers – Alexander Hamilton (the guy on 10 dollar note). When he’s 9, his mother dies right next to him in bed, his father leaves him. Alexander is adopted by his cousin, who soon commits suicide. By fourteen, Alexander is left alone and becomes an orphan. He is very smart and hard-working boy and he successfully travels to America, where he starts studying on King’s College and becomes involved in politics. He then meets Eliza Schuyler – one of the kids of a wealthy American general Philip Schuyler – and they fall in love and soon after that they get married. Hamilton doesn’t really spend much time at home as he is involved in the revolution not only on the political side, but also on the battlefield. He is also quite hesitant whether he is or is not worthy of Eliza, although Eliza later reassures him that he’s good enough for her. Hamilton is later commanded to help general Lafayette win the battle of Yorktown. The Americans win the battle and soon after the revolution, Hamilton’s wife Eliza gives birth to their first son Philip. The newly elected President Washington then enlists Hamilton for the job of Treasury Secretary, despite a helpless Eliza’s pleas. Hamilton becomes even more busy than he was until now and while his wife Eliza, son Philip and sister-in-law Angelica go away for the summer, he cheats on Eliza with a woman, who comes to him for an advice – Maria Reynolds. Maria’s husband James soon finds out and uses these threats to get money from Hamilton. Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and Hamilton’s long time political rival Aaron Burr think they have discovered a scandal capable of destroying Hamilton accusing him of embezzling government money and committing treason. In reality, however, they found the transactions from his affair with Maria Reynolds. Hamilton later publishes a public admission about the affair, hoping to snuff out rumors of embezzlement and save his political legacy. His personal reputation, however, is ruined. Years pass, and Hamilton’s son Philip challenges a man named George Eacker to a duel for his slander of Hamilton’s reputation. Philip is killed in the duel and it’s right over his body, where Hamilton and Eliza meet again and speak to each other for the first time since the affair. Both of them are devastated by the death of their eldest son, which causes Eliza’s forgiveness for Hamilton’s actions. The presidential election of 1800 results in President John Adams being defeated, with Jefferson and Burr deadlocked in a tie. Hamilton is upset that Burr has once again changed his ideals for personal gain, and instead throws his support behind Jefferson, who ends up winning the delegates. Burr, enraged, exchanges letters with Hamilton and challenges him to a duel. Sadly, the duel ends the same way as it did for Hamilton’s son Philip and Hamilton dies in the consequences of the duel. Eliza lives for another fifty years, she builds the first orphanage in New York and she organizes all the letters she exchanged with her husband, while she also makes her children write and complete the biography of Hamilton. Unfortunately, she doesn’t live long enough to see it completed, although she actually  gets unbelievable 97 years on Earth.

The whole musical ends with a song called Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story, which basically sums up the main idea of the musical, which hit me really hard. History is always told by people, who choose what to tell and what not to tell. You can do whatever you want in your life, but you don’t know who will tell your story – whether they will choose the good things you did or they will only show the world the mistakes you made. The way people will  (not) remember you is influenced by those, who tells your story.

Despite the fact that the musical is a genial piece of art and I absolutely fell in love with it, that idea of narrator of history actually hit me harder than others because of one specific reason. Right now, I’m working on a thesis, which is about miller’s trade in Czechoslovakia in the 20th Century and specifically, it tells the story of my great-grandfather, who was one of the millers persecuted by the government. When I gave a copy of this thesis to my grandmother, who is his daughter-in-law, something magical happened. She started crying. I was confused, because I didn’t really know what happened and I thought something is wrong. She then told me something I will never forget. She said: “Thank you.” “For what?” I asked. “For doing this. I thought there is never going to be somebody, who would tell his story and write it down, so it can be given to the next generations. You did that. I thought I won’t ever see it happen in my life. Thank you.”

…who will tell my story?

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