In the movie The Hunt for Red October, the commanding officers of the Red October submarine are planning to defect from the USSR during the Cold War. The movie is gripping, sad, and filled with wonderful suspense as the US and the USSR try and find this missing submarine. One in order to help her crew, the other in order to wipe them from the face of the earth.
In the midst of all the action and angst that the movie has to offer, there is a quieter scene where the Soviet Captain and his First Officer are sitting in the Captain’s quarters, drinking together. The First Officer starts to talk about what he will do when they finally reach America and freedom. He’ll buy a “recreational vehicle”, he says. He’ll marry a pretty country girl, and farm rabbits. Then he’ll take his truck and drive all over the country just because he can. “And [I will] drive from state to state. Do they let you do that?” The Captain replies that he thinks they can. Then the First Officer asks one more question. “No papers?” The Captain smiles slightly. “No papers.” He agrees.
The first time I watched this movie, I didn’t appreciate the power or the sadness of that scene. The First Officer can’t believe that he would be able to go state-to-state without needing to go past guards, or have papers proving that he’s allowed to cross the border. He could simply…. drive. And it was amazing to him. Here in America, we have privileges that most people can only dream of. Yet the fact that we have those privileges can sometimes blind us. It can blind us to the fact that other people need papers when we don’t. Here in America, no papers are required to go from Texas to Maine. I mean, why you’d want to go all the way to Maine from Texas for the heck of it is beyond me, but you can do it. We live in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave. Even though things might look bad, just remember that we’re still part of one of the most amazing countries that has ever existed. No papers needed.