I recently took my 8 year old son, along with my wonderful friend and her 8 year old daughter (aka my son's good bud), to see Le Mis. It was not his first viewing, we had seen a production at our local high school (his then 4 1/2 year old brother lasted about 30 min but my then 6 year old lasted through 2 1/2 hours of it).
I had loved the play on Broadway - the music is wonderful if you like musicals, the stage was amazing live and most of all there is the story. The story of a man driven to steal a loaf of bread, driven to survive a harrowing imprisonment, driven to change and most of all driven from start to finish to be more than 24601.
My friend and I were bit nervous about taking our kids - you know there is a scene where a young boy is killed, point blanc - but since both of them were familiar with the story we thought it would be ok. They were not as traumatized by that scene, my friend and I weeped openly and I used her box of tissues freely, as we thought - they were saddened by it, by the sheer unfairness of killing him. There was a lesson there - not so much our furtive glances, stifled giggles and fervent wishes for them to close their eyes at the scene with a hooker riding Santa -- guess who was Master of the House there ho ho ho?!
Since then my son and his brother have wanted to hear the soundtrack over and over and over again. They do not understand why someone would go to jail for stealing bread when they are hungry - explained that the law is the law and that the bad part is not having an opportunity to make enough to feed your family. My youngest asked "why don't the rich people show the poor people 3 or 4 jobs to pick from and then give them money to do them?". They cannot imagine the life of poverty and stifled opportunity. I can - I lived in a communist country where your dreams were stifled and money or not lack of basic necessities were the only things that were "equally shared", there were still people with "means" they were just fewer and if you think it is hard to get ahead in a capitalist society, an Eastern bloc country made it look like they give it all away here.
I look around us and I despair often these days - though my optimism is never far behind that there will be a better world...around the corner just slowly shuffling forward - hurry up. My greatest fear for the States is that the opportunities will keep drying up - one of the things that saves Jan Valjean is an opportunity, to break away from his past, to make something of himself, to increase his wealth from nothing and help others with it. I see a government more concerned with fighting with each other, more worried about about special interest lobbies then with the good of the country and it's citizens. I see too many people working too hard and getting less and less with doors closing on their opportunities. We are stumbling but we can still move forward. A country full of people who are better off as a whole is a whole lot better off. I am hopeful that this amazing mish-mash of a country that gave my family and I a chance to make our dreams realities is still here ...still ready to take a man who asks "who am I?' or a woman who "dreams a dream" and offer them the chance to be "master of the house".