Like many across the planet, I attended a screening of Les Miserables on Christmas night. As with most theaters, our screening in Prescott Valley, AZ was nearly full. Since high school, this story has been on my short list of favourites. I first read it in French, as a junior. The message was no less clear and compelling in the film: None of us is beyond redemption, but frequently, attaining it means casting aside ego, pride, fear. One reviewer called the story “relentless”, in its presentation of the events leading up to the Barricades of Paris in 1832, and the aftermath of their architects’ defeat.
It is never going to be “Les Miz”, in my mind. The human struggle can never really be trivialized, abbreviated or marginalized for convenience’s sake. The bonds of true love, in every one of its forms, can never be broken. The power of unconditional humaneness, towards even one’s perceived enemies, can never be broken. In real terms, Victor Hugo was calling out for all these to become the order of his day, and of the future society. In real time, we see the great leaders of our day putting these principles into action: Nelson Mandela, Aung San Suu Kyi, Inacio Lula da Silva and Liu Xiao Bo.
The most compelling strand in Les Miserables is the ultimate sense of Jean Valjean’s vindication, at least in his own heart. Even Javert, to his great chagrin, recognizes the folly of his own life’s work, bestowing his Croix d’Honeur on the fallen child, Gavroche, then allowing Jean Valjean to carry the wounded Marius to safety. None of these revelations reduces the power of the story- it can only be felt by those who experience the story, whether in film, on stage or in print.
The despair of that age must have been palpable. The message sent forth by the despondent Fantine, “But there are dreams that cannot be, and there are storms we cannot weather”, must never, though, be allowed to take root in these times of ours. The dead Gavroches of Sandy Hook each had a feistiness, an unquenchable thirst for life of their own. The Cosettes, and Eponines, of the world deserve their shot at bringing dream to reality. The Javerts of our society need not self-destruct, but rather know that the unbending principles designed to safeguard wealth and privilege are not always tenable, nor should they be.
As I drove towards home this evening, a newscast informed that a light snow had fallen on Newtown today. In the darksome night, there is hope radiating outward, attracting blessings, repelling the very evil that brought down this dark.
Love is not an easy thing, but to all who suffer- know that you are loved, at least in this corner.