Death of the Author, J.K. Rowling, Orson Scott Card, and Lin-Manuel Miranda


Lindsay Ellis is generally worth listening to, but I especially liked this because the comparison she made between Rowling and Card hits home for me. It was shocking to learn about his political views and activities after reading Speaker for the Dead, and it took me some time to come to the conclusion that while he was alive, I could not, in good conscience, support him financially or socially.

This brings me to Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Hamilton.

First, I want to be clear: based on what I know about Miranda, I do not think he belongs in the same category as Rowling and Card. He seems to have a general liberal desire for the world to get better, he’s on the right side on most things, and I’m aware of no bigotry on his part. That said, he has also not been and entirely benign and positive influence in the world specifically when it comes to Puerto Rico, and I think that’s worth paying attention to.

I like Hamilton. I really do. I love the music and the writing, and its ability to make me feel feelings. I also think it’s worth noting the hard work and skill of the many people who created that musical other than the author, and I don’t blame them for his actions any more than I blame the cast of the Harry Potter movies for Rowling’s bigotry.

Just as Miranda has used the wealth, power, and fame he got from Hamilton, and his earlier hit “In The Heights”, I think it’s important to use the spotlight that’s currently on him and his work to also highlight the ongoing damage of colonialism. This isn’t just to shame Miranda, or to get him to personally change how he thinks about and uses his power. It’s nearly certain that he will never read this blog post, though I hope he has read @lxzdanelly‘s twitter thread, and it would be nice if he would listen to his critics in Puerto Rico and change his behavior accordingly.

My purpose, in writing this, is to play some small part in using Hamilton to draw more attention to the situation in Puerto Rico, and the role Miranda has played in it. As we keep seeing, the problems of people with little wealth or power rarely make it into corporate news. The massive Black Lives Matter uprising in the United States hasn’t stopped, but with a decrease in showy property damage, and the media’s propensity to lose interest in ongoing events, the coverage has dropped off in a big way.

Puerto Rico got a lot of attention when it was hit by Hurricane Maria, but while those troubles, and the thousands of needless deaths continued, the attention paid to them by the United States, as a body, faded far too quickly.

It has also been noted – and bears repeating – that Hamilton tells a story about a chapter in American history, while making no mention whatsoever of the people indigenous to this continent, who were forced out their homes to “set the stage” for the events fictionalized in Miranda’s play. Reality is messy and complex, and it’s not possible to capture every nuance of history in a single work, but this is a glaring omission, particularly given the thought that went into the racial dynamics of how the story was told.

The problems faced by Puerto Ricans, and by Native Americans, are likely to continue for as long as neoliberalism holds sway in the United States and around the world. The path to a more just world is long, shifting, and hard to see at times, but raising awareness of perspectives and commentary like this twitter thread seems to be an important part of the process.

I can’t give a comprehensive list of places to learn about these issues, and I won’t try. There are some links to follow in this post, and you could do worse than checking out this article on neoliberalism and Puerto Rico from Solidarity.

While you’re checking things out, I highly recommend you listen to this Native America Calling episode from April of 2019 on socialism and capitalism.


And finally, I can’t afford not to make my regular plug for myself. If you want to support this blog, and my ability to keep a roof over my head and food on my plate, please consider signing up to be a patron at patreon.com/oceanoxia, at whatever rate you feel you can afford.

Comments

  1. sonofrojblake says

    I’m a white, straight, cis, employed, male in a civilised country, so take what follows with that in mind.

    This is some tall poppy cancel culture shit right here. As if it’s not already hard enough for minorities to overcome systemic racism in the US, when they do, IF they don’t in word and deed and where applicable artistic output act as perfect advocates for their minority or other minorities (in this case Native Americans), then they’re held up for opprobrium, even condemn for being “rich [and] white-passing”. Hold people to a standard, sure, but just what standard is being expected here? In a country where Donald Trump even exists, let alone gets elected President, to go after this guy seems the worst kind of left-wing divisiveness. No wonder the Right keep on winning.

  2. says

    The standard, on the issue of Native American representation, is one of historical accuracy in a production purporting to represent a period in history. If that was the only issue here, I might mention it, but not in the same tone.

    But kindly note that the bulk of the post and the criticism of Miranda is focused on his material use of power and effects on people’s lives.

    Most of this post was about the use of wealth, power, and influence to affect popular understanding of important issues, and to directly affect legislation and the use of, and access to material resources.

    He’s not being condemned for being “rich and white-passing”, he’s being condemned for the actions he has taken, and the ways in which he has used his identity in having a material effect on the world, and particularly on people who share that identity, but have virtually NO power in that regard.

  3. says

    I’ll also add that the right also has plenty of in-fighting and the like, so I’m not convinced that analyzing and criticizing support of particular policies is “why the Right keeps on winning”.

    They win, when they do, because they’re aligned with immensely concentrated power, which benefits from the ways in which it’s difficult to grasp everything that is done in our system, and so people often support things that do harm because they were misguided in one way or another.

    Discussing those policies and the effects they have, with the benefit of hindsight, is how we can spot those problems earlier, and fight back against them more effectively.

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