Wednesday, 25 May 2016

When tomorrow comes

I’d wanted to see the West End production of Les Miserables for years. The recent film version only increased my longing.

(If you've never seen the film, invite me round, I'll happily watch it again if you provide the popcorn!)

A couple of weeks ago, on a damp Tuesday evening, we happened to be standing outside Buckingham Palace (that’s another story) – all dressed up and nowhere to go. Sheron suggested we pop up to Leicester Square to see if we can pick up a last minute ticket for the show due to start in an hour. So off we popped.

Soon enough we were in the dress circle of the Queens Theatre (where else!), takeaway latte in one hand, box of fruit pastilles in the other – Oh yes people, I really do know how to show a girl a good time!

Right from the start Les Miserables grips you. It grips as a vice grips a piece of timber ready to be planed by a master wood craftsman. Every act, every song another shaving removed. I remained completely entranced, enthralled, involved. Unashamedly I cried pretty much from beginning to end, such is the power of this story.

If you don’t know the story Les Miserables is set 200 years ago in France. It is the story of Jean Valjean, released from 19 years hard labour, he broke parole and spent his life on the run, pursued by his nemesis Inspector Javert. Along the way Valjean receives unexpected kindness and mercy and promises before God to live a better life. Indeed it is the story of Valjean’s redemption and salvation and his determination to extend the same grace and mercy he received, to others.

One night Valjean, having been pursued by Javert for years, had the opportunity to take the lawman’s life. Instead, he gave Javert his life back. Javert, a good man who always sought to do things correctly and justly, could not live with the consequences of receiving such grace; it was alien to all he knew, and subsequently he killed himself. Valjean’s final confession to his adopted daughter of his past life was watched through a lens of tears.
It was everything I’d expected and more.

The finale however, opened the floodgates before everyone rose to their feet, cheered, clapped and roared their appreciation to the amazing cast and musicians.

The finale was so powerful I can still sense how it made me feel as I sit two weeks later typing at a keyboard on a chilly evening in Yorkshire. You see the words of the final song had me wanting to shout Yes! Yes! Yes! Pretty much like Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally.

The lyrics are these:

Do you hear the people sing
Lost in the valley of the night
It is the music of a people
Who are climbing to the light

For the wretched of the earth
There is a flame that never dies
Even the darkest night will end
And the sun will rise.

They will live again in freedom
In the garden of the Lord
They will walk behind the plough-share
They will put away the sword
The chain will be broken
And all men will have their reward!

Will you join in our crusade?
Who will be strong and stand with me?
Somewhere beyond the barricade
Is there a world you long to see?
Do you hear the people sing
Say, do you hear the distant drums?
It is the future that they bring
When tomorrow comes!

And right there, through salt stained tears, I cheered. I cheered for the people who are fighting to bring justice for those with Down’s syndrome, and especially for those yet unborn. I sang that last chorus as a rousing anthem for the fantastic parents and families who are fighting to change the way that Down’s syndrome is perceived by others, especially those who deliver the news that “Your baby has Down’s syndrome” and those who would seek to eradicate Down’s syndrome through increased testing, without sharing accurate information
about what Down’s syndrome means in the 21st century.

I sang for my friends, my fellow crusaders who stand strong to overcome the barricades of ignorance; the barriers of discrimination. The world I long to see is one where people with Down’s syndrome are welcomed, accepted, embraced, loved, wanted, included. A world without prejudice, stigma, discrimination, even hate. That’s the future I long to live in when tomorrow comes.

If we don't do something now tomorrow may not come at all for many unborn babies with Down's syndrome. And for those already with us, their lives will be downgraded, they already are downgraded by many, simply because they have a 47th chromosome. The law says they can be terminated at any point up until birth! Babies can survive at 24 weeks which is the cut off point for abortion for those who the world deems "normal". How ironic that we spend billions looking for life on other planets but won't protect that which exists right here on earth. 

It is wrong!

The scientists would say that they are just producing the information and the possibilities and it's up to us as a people to decide how we use that information. Well that's like saying "I'm just building a nuclear facility, you choose if you want to fire it!". There must be an ethical review of abortion in this country. It is wrong that people with Down's syndrome suffer such discrimination in a world where we have learned to tolerate so much yet we have learned to hate so much also.

That's why we fight. That's why we crusade. That's why we sing a song of freedom. That's why we rip apart the barricades. That's why we long for a tomorrow where love triumphs over hate, grace triumphs over law, mercy triumphs over judgement.

When tomorrow comes.



In the distance...

Do you hear the people sing?...

Will you join in our crusade?
Who will be strong and stand with me?
Somewhere beyond the barricade
Is there a world you long to see?
Do you hear the people sing
Say, do you hear the distant drums?
It is the future that they bring
When tomorrow comes!

Join our crusade
*Have your say about the future of ethics and testing for Down's syndrome by completing an anonymous survey for the Nuffield Council on Bioethics. You can complete the survey here.

1 comment:

  1. Perfectly put as ever Paul. I so often sob at lyrics which now have so much meaning for me. ps, you both looked amazing for tea with Her Madge xxx