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Rick’s clientele

Refugees in Rick’s Café Americain are noted for having been driven from their fascist homelands because of their minds. Because they’re independent thinkers who can’t be intimidated into mindless conformance, into group-think. Can’t be parted from their individuality, their sovereign rights as citizens to use their judgment to call out injustices and other wrongs that inflict suffering. That offend shared responsibility to the community, to everyone’s future.

They flee oppression with their different languages, dress, and customs, because they have a conscience. Because they refuse to sacrifice their conscience, their values, their individual worth, to the demands of an authority that tolerates nothing but obedience. That achieves conformance by crushing those who refuse to surrender their minds, their free will, their autonomy and individuality, to the group. That insists on possessing its subjects’ consciences and subjecting them to total control so that they may never question its authority. May never question the rightness or wrongness of its rule. May never use their consciences to question at all.

Escape from “paradise”

To ask Why, because independent thinking that asks Why might awaken its subjects to the Reality of their captivity. To the Truth that their “paradise” of forced conformance is based on a lie: that it’s for their benefit when it’s not. When its real purpose is only to preserve the authority of their oppressor. To preserve the appearance of its legitimacy, its façade of unreality.

The refugees in Rick’s Café are non-conformists not to make trouble, not to disrupt peace in the family. They’re non-conformists to stand up against the façade of peace that’s maintained by possession and coercion. By dominance, disempowerment, cruelty, and invalidation instead of sharing, empowerment, fairness, kindness, and affirmation. To stand up for the values that enable real peace, real harmony. Upheld by the free will of its subjects from the bottom up instead of forced upon them from the top down.

For love of Democracy, for love of Diversity

For all their differences the refugees in Rick’s Café are alike in one respect: they are all democrats. They gather together in Rick’s sanctuary in harmony because the values they share are shared freely, not dictated to them by Rick or by anyone else. They are individuals free to display their differences as we are in a free society, in a democracy.To display their individuality, their eccentricities, their special talents, because that’s the point: to enrich their society with diversity. With contributions from every source, every member with anything to offer no matter how unconventional.

The scene is set in the film’s opening shot as the camera pans from the pianist singing “Knock on Wood” to every table. Where individuals from different countries, different cultures, different perspectives, speaking different languages, are engaged in animated conversation. Opening themselves to an intimacy of thinking, feeling, and judgment that would be unimaginable back home. Sharing lives, sharing thoughts, debating philosophy and ideals.

The cruelty of an unchanging status quo

The title of the film Casablanca's original story was Everybody Comes to Rick’s. Because Rick’s welcomes everybody. Everybody, that is, with a conscience who thinks for themselves. Everybody who has the character and the courage to stand up for what’s right, for personal responsibility, kindness, and justice. The very same reasons why they’re not welcome back home.

For them, it’s an honor not to be welcome back home. A source of pride that they’ve stood up for their conscience and attracted notice. That they prefer exile to the comforts of home where free spirits with a conscience don’t belong. Where change is not welcome that would challenge the thoughtlessness, the cruelty, of an unchanging status quo. Proud that they don’t rely on affirmation by group conformance but by their own native worth, their own individual creativity, their own free spirit of love and inquiry.

Allons enfants de la Patrie!

Who comes to Rick’s? The children of Democracy. Those who love Democracy and the spirits of those who’ve fought and died for Democracy. In the context of its time, "Everybody Comes to Rick’s" was right: Everybody united in opposition to fascism comes to Rick’s. There was nobody else then, not in America.

Today, there is somebody else in America. They’ve chosen another place to go: Plato’s Cave. We will visit them in their Cave, but another time. Rick has just given his musicians permission to play La Marseillaise. A momentous change of mind that will put Victor and Ilsa on the last plane to Lisbon and end Rick’s tale with a beautiful friendship. I don’t want to miss it.

Our values are what really matters – love and family; friendship and community; health and healing; freedom and free will; self-worth; purpose, learning, striving, growth and achievement; abundance; protection and trust; beauty, purity and innocence; empowerment and control. Whenever we’re in doubt, these are our conscience. These are our best guide to avoiding mistakes.

Grandparents know all about mistakes because they’ve seen and made lots of them. They know a lot about values, too, because experience has taught them what’s important. Kids might do fine without a grandparent. But it’s possible they’d do even better with one. Grandparents want kids to have this resource: helping them with values so they avoid mistakes.

This is how grandparents want to be there for their kids. They applaud kids' performances and cheer them from the sidelines. But when kids are ready for more, grandparents are ready for more.

Grandparents don’t tell kids what to do. Setting a good example, standing up for their values – that’s their job. If they follow the wrong example they won’t be role modeling their values. They won’t be role modeling the values they want their grandchildren to have.

What kids need from their grandparents is good role models.

Here are some thoughts about grand-parenting, relationships, and role modeling based on one grandparent's experience:

Respect and affection between friends can never be taken for granted, because that would be telling our friends their needs and feelings don’t matter. That they don’t matter. It would tell them that they’re worthless when friendships should tell them the opposite.

Differences between people can cause serious problems. Our reading and entertainment tell us that every day. Our minds work differently. Our personalities aren’t the same. We value different things. Our priorities are different. We present ourselves differently. We try to connect and communicate differently – the list goes on and on.

Our circumstances are always changing. And our needs and feelings change with them. Because everyone’s circumstances are different, no one has the same point of view.

Our physical, biological, and social environment is a dynamic system driven by powerful forces. Understanding these forces is the purpose of every field of learning -- physics, philosophy, psychology, neuroscience, social science, political science, ethics, theology, biology, and more. We are brought together in one great human enterprise: learning.

One of the great lessons of life is the need for continuous improvement -- for learning and personal growth. This is as true for groups as it is for individuals. It is our purpose. We can’t stand still. We must move forward.

Learning takes effort. It takes thought, and kids are capable of that. If grandparents didn’t believe in their kids they would say, “They’re just kids” and ignore them. Grandparents don’t ignore their kids. They think their kids are worth a whole lot more than just one birthday gift. They're worth a million birthday gifts! They're not “just kids.”

As Vince Lombardi would put it: What’s best for our kids isn’t everything: it’s the only thing. Being useful to their kids is why grandparents exist. A good grandparent will try to be useful even if it means doing without the affection, kindness, joy, and laughter that their kids bless them with. Their kids are worth a trillion birthday gifts!

Relationships usually survive misunderstandings and hurt feelings without too much damage. But when we don’t respect our differences it can have more serious consequences. It can cause wounds that take away trust and safety. It can even bring close friendships to an end.

In the end, there is only one way to save a friendship and that is to earn it. To have strong values, share them, and to stand up for them even if it takes work and may not succeed. What is friendship worth, anyway, if it doesn’t ask something of us? If we don’t risk something?

Living a truly good life and doing what’s right aren’t things to be casual about. They require thought and deliberation. They require care and concentration, because it can be very easy to lose sight of what really matters and make a mistake.

It’s up to each of us to determine for ourselves what’s right. It’s everyone’s duty to affirm the truth about who we are and what we believe in everything we do. It’s all about Character. It’s all about Purpose.

Modesty is being aware that a higher power knows what’s best and letting this awareness guide our conscience. Anyone can find fault with what’s wrong, but who really knows what’s right? This is modesty, a virtue that is everyone’s duty to share, and grandparents would share it with their kids.

Miracles happen when power that we’re not aware of works quietly through our minds and hearts to overcome barriers to change and lead us forward. The barriers to change necessary for friends to move forward may not come down without a miracle. This is as true for brothers and sisters as it is with fathers and sons.

“Happy endings” aren’t a given but neither is disappointment. What we think are “happy endings” may also lie beyond our understanding. We should be prepared for both, because whatever comes may be for the best – we don’t know.