I was walking the dog the other day and came across evidence of someone doing a very COVID type of activity. There was a heap of stuff outside the house with a ‘FREE’ sign attached. I’ve noticed a lot of people house cleaning lately and am convinced it’s part of the cabin fever stuff people do to try to keep from going crazy. In this particular set of boxes was a collection of old paperback books, one of which was ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’. I’d seen the movie long ago but never actually read the book. Why not? I was wondering how this ‘classic’ from 1960’s held up in today’s world.
The answer is – surprisingly well. I’m not sure if I should be so surprised, given that ‘Murica is so polarized these days. For many living in Kanadoodle, the shift between ‘Murica’s last two elected leaders seems more remarkable than explainable. Mockingbird does a wonderful job of revealing the deeply rooted prejudices that flowed from slavery to the present day. I came across an interview with a ‘Murican black writer who opined that the current leader is the true face of white ‘Murica and the previous leader an aberration. Mockingbird captures the ugly face of racism but still offers hope for the future. If, like me, you have never read the book, you should. It’s a lovely tale told from the perspective of a young girl growing up in southern America. Despite the youthful point of view, the singular figure of the story is Atticus Finch, an archetype of a rational, moral and compassionate man dedicated to an ideal of tolerance and equality.
With sixty years now lapsed from the publication of Mockingbird, is the hope offered back then anywhere closer to reality? What makes the question difficult to determine is the large number of those for whom politics, as a vehicle of progress, has been tried and found wanting. ‘Murica’s current leader tapped into the anger against traditional party politics and its reliance on big money and globalization. The fact that his rhetoric is divorced from his actions only shows how desperate people are to believe he offers something different.
Somehow I think Atticus Finch would understand the dilemma, shake his head and continue in his quiet way to influence those he could to work for a better world, little by little.