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  • Writer's pictureKaren L

1776 in 2023

I fly a modestly sized American flag on July 4th. Increasingly aware of being an American citizen, since adopting foreign born children, watching the plight of refugees, and contemplating that I am the first born American in my family. My mother was not a

citizen when I was born. (She had a green card or other documentation, since she worked.) My balcony is decorated with red, white, and blue which I enjoy. I do not adorn for Christmas. I am Jewish.

1776 was a musical I never considered attending. However, this is not 1969 or 1976--the year of the Bicentennial when I moved to the Washington D.C. area--but 2023. Tyrant wannabees and misguided followers threaten our democracy daily. Not only ignorant people but supposedly wise judges fall prey to politics. WTF or as the triumverate of Adams, Franklin, and Jefferson might say, "folks, read the document we sweated over." And, yes, they owned slaves. But that is not the point of my piece.

All of the roles in the revised, redone 1776 are portrayed by women. Women of all colors, shapes, sizes, and ages. Though, they could have included a baby boomer or two. Not a fan of revisions, this production moved me to tears. The first Americans in my clan arrived on these shores in the mid 20th century. I do not identify with colonial fathers and mothers. Of course, no women attended the Continental Congress of June to July of 1776. The talented women in the revised production adeptly portrayed the quirky, temperamental attributes of the "founding fathers." The directors selected women who were caricatures of the original men, i.e. Thomas Jefferson--red hair; Benjamin Franklin--strongly built. The actresses sang, spoke, and danced their way through the two act musical. As musicals are these days, the scenery was sparse and technology was utilized effectively.

Women did not have rights in 1776. At the present time, women of all races work in professions that only white men were permitted to practice not so long ago. Women speaking the lines of politicians and statesmen demonstrated what a democratic government can accomplish. For it is our laws that have allowed all women increased rights and all humans to exist freely in varying shapes, colors, and abilities. The production acknowledges how far we have come, and how far we must go.

I understood the arguments and compromises of 1776 differently than I would have in 1976. The country was divided by the Vietnam War; but, Americans agreed on the basics--honesty, integrity, respect, and the sanctity of our democratic institutions. I did not agree with the corruption, misogyny, racism, and militarism of the sixties and seventies, but elected officials did not incite or condone gullible individuals to literally tear down a democracy. Freedoms were added not subtracted. News was news; truth was truth. If the president uttered words, these statements were not negated two days later. (And to the naysayers on the right--there has never been a time without corruption, lies, and unfair application of the law.) But the scoundrels were caught and punished swiftly. ©Karen Levi 2023

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