To the Union
The other day I went to see the play Hamilton and, besides it being absurdly awesome, I was blown away by the historical significance of being in New York just before the Revolutionary War.
A moment in time when the country was born – literally born.
There’s a song from the play that I can’t seem to stop listening to where Angelica Schuyler (one of the lead characters) is giving a toast at her sister’s wedding and she raises her glass and says “to the Union.”
This is where you’re probably wondering why in God’s name is this guy ranting about such an inconsequential event.
The answer (besides it’s my blog and I’m allowed to rant) is that her toast wasn’t unique. During that period millions of people, just like Angelica, raised their glass “to the Union.”
Our independence was a rallying call, a common cause that bound the colonials.
But more than being a cause worthy of a toast, I’m struck by the simplicity; the ability to package such a powerful message in three simple words: “to the Union.”
Just saying those words binds you to the cause. It makes you part of a group, part of a movement, part of something bigger than yourself, part of something that is and was quite literally worth dying for.
To the Union.
To freedom, to independence, to our homeland, to building a nation.
To the Union.
I began to wonder if there’s a cause today that has the same meaning, the same ubiquity.
If we listened to people’s toasts at weddings across the country my guess is that they would not cite a cause at all or cite one that is only meaningful to a particular audience.
Maybe something like “Here’s to Veterans“ or “Here’s to Gay Marriage.”
Maybe it’s global warming, or saving the whales, or world hunger.
But those are certainly not common. Not shared. Not pervasive.
We don’t have a cause today that binds us together. There is no national rally cry.
We are adrift in a sea of individuality.
We need to focus. We need to knock out one cause at a time putting all of our energy and resources (within reason) around achieving one goal; instead of making incremental and largely marginal progress across a never-ending spectrum of movements.
And since these days I’m acutely focused on cancer and prolonging life, I’ll selfishly offer that one up.
We are in many ways like those New Yorkers in the late 1760’s who found themselves on history’s doorstep; alive at a time when, based on a confluence of events that hadn’t existed before that very moment, Americans would be in a position to gain their independence.
Today, we can for the first time in history, peer inside the human body and uncover the molecular composition of cancer. We know what makes it up, what makes it grow in uncontrolled ways. So now is the time to join together and collectively fight it.
It may not be easy, as cancer is super complicated; but it wasn’t easy defeating the British either. We just channeled our collective resolve as a nation.
If we do the same thing, we can beat cancer. We can take this grim noun and turn it into a verb – I don’t “have cancer”, I’m just “cancering,” and, in the process, save nearly 600,000 people a year who needlessly die from this disease.
So here’s my toast:
“To More Time”
Maybe at every wedding, we all raise a glass, and after we toast to the newlyweds, we also say “To More Time.”
And maybe those three words come to signify our ability to channel our technological capability to prolong life, to end cancer.
It’s a big wish, and maybe I’m a little crazy for wishing it, but my guess is the guy who first toasted “To the Union” sounded a bit nuts as well.