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.
I work at a library. One of the parts of this job is processing, or getting books ready to be checked out. Recently I was working on a decent sized student encyclopedia. It had everything in it. Trains? Got you covered. What about ancient Rome? No problem. Or what about something a little more random, like hot air balloons? Check! And then I realized yet another wonderful thing about American culture.
We LOVE teaching! For illustration: I went through a phase where I wanted to go into script writing. I am by no means a movie nerd, and I didn’t know a single thing about what went into making a movie, so I looked it up. Everything I could want to learn was right there at my fingertips. It didn’t matter that I was fifteen and couldn’t tell you the first thing about how script submissions worked, I found what I needed. I found what I needed because someone took the time to write about what they know, and to do it in such a way that I, with my limited experience, could understand. You know what? I can tell you how script submissions work now. Because someone wanted to teach what they know to a stranger.
People in America are always making it easier for the next generation to learn something. We’re…. what…. the twentieth generation of Americans? That means that we have twenty stinkn’ generations of people who have been teaching us to stand on. And now that we have things like Google, we can find all that information in an instant!
In America, it’s very, very easy to learn something. Anything. Anything you want. Our predecessors want to teach us, books about history and science are screaming to be read, things that took America hundreds of years to find out you can learn in a free, five minute lecture from YouTube. The sky is the limit for Generation Z, let’s see if we can push past the horizon!
The nerd. The flirt. The jock. The loner. The bookworm. The student. Cookie-Cutter Personality. The ones you read about, the ones you hear people talk about. Oh, you never miss a Yankee game? You’re a sports buff! You dress conservatively? Home schooled/sheltered. I know you already!
You and I both know that that’s not true. Our tvs and books scream so, they’re shouting it in our faces. But we know that there is more to a stranger than meets the eye. Cookie Cutter Personalities exist, they’re referenced, even taken advantage of. But they’re not us. They don’t have to be us.
Here in America, in this amazing and beautiful country, we all know that each person is someone. That they have a life, surprises, stories, things that make them 100% them. Nothing about us is factory-made! If you see someone that’s different, we don’t freak because we can’t find a label for them! We think, “That’s them, I’m me. We don’t have to be the same.”
Too much of the same makes me think of the droid army from the Star Wars Prequels. They’re not alive, they don’t have feelings, dreams, or aspirations that only they can achieve. They were pre-programmed for one role, and one role only. Never any more or less. Americans? We can soar with eagles, we can fall into the depths of the sea, and no one thinks that’s who we are. We’re free to live; to explore and find what our life is made of. Sure, we might cookie-cutter ourselves a bit. I enjoy reading, that doesn’t mean that all I’ll ever be is a bookworm. We can just…… live. We can be us, and no one judges it. I’m me, you’re you, and we’re beautiful the way we are.