Alexander Hamilton died on this date in 1804, in a bizarre episode in U.S. history with profound ethical and political implications. There Aaron Burr fatally shot dead the nation’s first Secretary of the Treasury and essential political thinker in an illegal duel at Weehawken, New Jersey. It was, of course, unethical to break the law, especially for these two men, who qualified as national leaders. Hamilton’s son had died defending his father’s honor in 1801 at the exact same spot (What was Alexander thinking?)
According to Hamilton’s “second,” Hamilton deliberately fired his weapon into the air rather than at Burr, a gentlemanly gesture and also a profoundly stupid one, if Hamilton believed half the things he had said and written about Burr’s character for years. This was why they were dueling, after all. Burr’s second claimed that Hamilton fired at Burr and missed, and the more I’ve thought abut this, the more I’ve come to believe that this is the more likely scenario. Hamilton was anything but naive, reckless or stupid. Yes, he was a crack shot, but anyone can miss. Even if the gesture of “throwing away his shot” as “Hamilton” puts it, would have impressed some adversaries and been seen as a display of mercy and an offer of reconciliation, it made no sense at all with this adversary. Moreover, Hamilton considered Burr a threat to the nation—he was right about that—why wouldn’t he shoot him? Whatever really happened, Burr, who had the second shot, killed Hamilton with a ball that went through his stomach into his spine. Hamilton died the next day.
This ended Burr’s political career: Would killing Burr have ended Hamilton’s? Probably, but Burr was the one who had issued the challenge. Maybe Hamilton would have been excused by the public. Maybe he would have ultimately become President; all the Founders of his magnitude except Ben Franklin did. For good or ill, Alexander Hamilton would have been a strong and probably transformative leader. But if he hadn’t died at Weehawken, it’s unlikely that we would have “Hamilton” the musical….
1. Baseball, hotdogs, and a bystander hero. Dr. Willie Ross, the father of Washington Nationals pitcher Joe Ross, saved the life of a choking fan midway through yesterday 10-4 Giants win over Washington at Oracle Park in San Francisco. Ross saw that a female spectator was choking, and when Ross came over to her seat to check on her, she couldn’t talk. Ross helped dislodge two pieces of a hot dog by using the Heimlich maneuver, then reached into her throat to take out the third and final piece. The woman, who is a nurse, could breath and speak at last. Ross received a standing ovation from nearby fans.
2. Why is Tokyo going ahead with the Olympics? With the pandemic still ongoing in many parts of the world and vaccinations far from universal, it was irresponsible to go forward with the Games at all this year after cancelling them in 2020. Worse, Japan itself is having flare-up. Ah, but this is the Larry Vaughn Effect—officials are so determined not to let a little thing like impending disaster stop plans and profit, that they are willing to take an insane risk. Athletes and spectators from all over the world were going to converge on Tokyo, making the proverbial “superspreader” event likely if not certain….all to satisfy TV interests and fans of women’s gymnastics. Then, last week, the rising infection stats led the Olympics officials to ban spectators! What fun! Will the Olympics use cardboard cutouts of fans like baseball did last year? Discussing this…
…with my sister, I was told, “Well, all of the athletes will be vaccinated.”
Unfortunately, that’s not true.
A responsible President would unilaterally tell the U.S. Team to stay home. I know Trump wouldn’t, and Biden won’t. It’s would still be the right move.
3. USA Today actually published this gaslight special op-ed from Joe Trippi, who tried to get the despicable Howard Dean elected President. Res ipsa loquitur. Didn’t they have an obligation to explain to him that The Lincoln Project has been thoroughly disgraced and discredited, and that saying he wants to join it is like saying he wants to set his hair on fire? And that’s just the beginning.
4. When double standards alarms don’t ring: Reader Curmie pointed me to this interview with Lou Diamond Phillips, the actor best known for playing doomed singer Richie Valens. Phillips is Fillipino, and was discussing his pleasure at finally playing a Fillipino character after years of portraying every other ethnic type imaginable. His discussion both reveals his own confusion and the tangle of double standards in the whole matter of casting. At one point he says, “My aim from the beginning was to be an Actor with a capital A…You keep trying to put the hyphen in front of me, you know? ….can I just be an actor? Do you always have to categorize me this way?” Then he says, moments later, “I happen to agree that casting Caucasian people in what are supposed to be ethnic roles is not kosher, mostly because there is an authenticity issue. But also because it’s a matter of opportunity. You cannot compare the level of opportunity that we get, you know?”
Huh? First, by what logic is a Filipino actor playing a Native American, as Phillips did for years on “Longmire,” more authentic than a “Caucasian” actor playing an “ethic” role? Second, if Hispanic actors don’t have enough opportunities to play their own ethnicities, how does Phillips justify his taking a plum role away from a Mexican-American actor when he played Mexican-American Valens? This is Calvinball, like all of the current diversity double talk, and Phillips apparently doesn’t even know it.