Seat’s Taken

I love the movie Forrest Gump. The first time I saw it I was tagging along with my much cooler older sister as she went to her friend’s house for the afternoon. I’d like to think his family had rented the VHS fresh from Blockbuster Video and someone had asked if I wanted to watch it before it had to returned that day. I think everyone else had abandoned the movie but I sat rapt, crying big fat tears and when the first tape was finished, I had no shame in asking for assistance putting the second one in the VCR (this was shortly after the wheel was invented, of course).

There are several scenes in that movie that find me breathless and one of them was when Forrest tries to find a seat on the bus only to be told the seat is taken over and over again. Jenny, with a voice like Bambi, gently tells Forrest that he “can sit here if you want”. Isn’t that all we really need anyway, someone to say “welcome” to us?

I am trying desperately to not talk politics (and yet…), but right now (and I am speaking for myself here) I feel like I have woefully misguided representation. Kind of like if Archie Bunker was the head of my family and people heard him and thought it represented what I think and feel. Now, I know the reply is “if you don’t like it leave” or “get over it, he won” or “too bad you lost” etc. I can be reduced to a tree hugging (I won’t deny that, I love trees and I have definitely hugged them before) liberal who needs to sit down and let the grown-ups make decisions. But here is tricky part. I am more than that.

I am American. I was born in America. My parents were born in America. Their parents were born in America and my great grandparents were born in America. My entire life I was told that was luck. I simply won the geographical lottery. There was no halo to accompany that fact deeming me blessed; I was born with an advantage. The fact that my parents were educated and married to each other and employed catapulted me even further. I had food and clothes and access to healthcare and education as well – the opportunities just kept piling up for me. Yes, divorce and addiction and heartache and disappointment snaked its way into my family but I had a ridiculous head start on MILLIONS of others. I have also been reduced to a dismissive wave as “not my problem”. But I remembered that I was “lucky” and though hardship didn’t skip me, it didn’t swallow me whole either.

There is a debate right now about the immigration ban and what that means and whether or not that makes the country safer. As an avid reader and a lover of history I have this unnerving sense of familiarity with what is unfolding. It is almost as if I have read something quite similar by George Orwell or Margaret Atwood or even Anne Frank.

I share some obvious needs, wants and dreams for the future with people who wildly disagree with me politically. I want safety. I want it for my family and for yours and for people I have never met before. I want great schools providing top notch education for my children. I want that for every child. The same goes for clean water and nourishing food and national parks and public libraries and access to the arts. I want those things for you and your family as well as my family and me. I want that no matter what language you speak, or God you worship (or don’t) or what you wear or eat or look like. I want to know that if my daughters don’t look like or sound like or dress like your sons; if they needed a seat on the bus they would be welcome to take one alongside each other. Is that really a wildly unattainable thing to want?

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