“Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel,” Samuel Johnson famously said in 1775, one year before America’s first Fourth of July, the day that Congress officially adopted the Declaration of Independence.
As Americans celebrate our 240th Fourth of July, several current Broadway shows offer different takes on patriotism, as the excerpts below should make clear.
The very definition of patriotism has shifted with the times, and, for many people, the word itself has gotten tarnished. “Heroism on command, senseless violence, and all the loathsome nonsense that goes by the name of patriotism – how passionately I hate them,” Albert Einstein said. But love for one’s country can be expressed in many, and contradictory, ways. “The notion that a radical is one who hates his country is naïve and usually idiotic,” H.L. Mencken wrote. “He is, more likely, one who likes his country more than the rest of us, and is thus more disturbed than the rest of us when he sees it debauched. He is not a bad citizen turning to crime; he is a good citizen driven to despair.”
The Schuyler sisters in Hamilton:
I’ve been reading Common Sense by Thomas Paine. So men say that I’m intense or I’m insane.
You want a revolution? I wanna revelation
so listen to my declaration
“We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal.”
And when I meet Thomas Jefferson… I’m a compel him to include women in the sequel.
Look around look around at how lucky we are to be alive right now!
History is happening in Manhattan and we
Just happen to be in the greatest city in the world
Alexander Hamilton in Hamilton
America, you great unfinished symphony
You sent for me
You let me make a difference
A place where even orphan immigrants can leave their fingerprints and rise up
I’m running out of time, I’m running and my time’s up Wise up
Emilio Estefan in On Your Feet
(A record company executive has just told him to change his name and his music in order to “cross over” outside “the Latin market”)
When I first got to Miami there was a sign in front of the apartment building next to ours. It said, “No Pets. No Cubans.” Change my name? It’s not my name to change. It’s my father’s name. It was my grandfather’s name. My grandfather, who we left behind in Cuba to come here and build a new life. Now, for 15 years I’ve worked my ass off and paid my taxes. So, I’m not sure where you think I live… but this is my home. And you should look very closely at my face, because whether you know it or not… this is what an American looks like. We’ll do it on our own.
Deirdre in The Humans
What makes a person powerful and influential and wealthy is not growing up with power and
influence and wealth…The gift of poverty is a…it’s not a myth, it’s a real thing, it can be a blessing…
Erik (Deirdre’s husband) in The Humans
I thought I’d be settled by my age, you know, but
man, it never ends…mortgage, car payments, internet, our dishwasher just gave out…
…Dontcha think it should cost less to be alive?
Dawn in Waitress
(Dawn is talking with her fellow waitresses about her personal profile for a dating site)
Dawn: “Ecstatically alive, enthusiastically American, dynamic and witty, I am a woman of many passions, including a rare turtle collection. I love the History Channel.
Jenna: Now that’s nice
Dawn: Note: I have played Betsy Ross in 33 Revolutionary War Reenactments.”
Jenna: ….Okay…. That’ll set you apart from the crowd –
Dawn: I’m calling myself “NewDawnRising.”
Ogie in Waitress
(Ogie has responded to Dawn’s profile.)
Ogie: So I’ll pick you up on Sunday at 7?
Ogie: Maybe! Maybe! There’s a reading at Rainard Park of the Federalist Papers.
Dawn: How do you know about that?
Ogie: I played Paul Revere in 42 Revolutionary War re-enactments. Well actually, 40 times technically I was the standby Revere but 2 times Paul was out – so I did actually play it, although one of those times I got injured halfway through, I had a bayonet issue– fell off my horse and had to have my spleen removed.
Dawn: “One if by land, two if by sea…”
Ogie: “…and I on the opposite shore will be!”
The Statue of Liberty from Liberty, a Monumental Musical
(A young Statue of Liberty is the main character in an Off-Broadway show opening on July 4th)
How much I love this land
The more I learn
The more I understand
The New Colossus by Emma Lazarus, in the Statue of Liberty
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”