Atticus Finch was the champion of a black man’s rights in Harper Lee’s Pulitzer prize-winning book, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” a story instructing one and all to be tolerant and have courage in the face of racial discrimination; it was later made into an academy award winning blockbuster with the renowned actor, Gregory Peck, playing the young lawyer, Atticus.
Harper Lee wrote another book about Atticus Finch, as an elder, when he’s 72, called. “Go Set a Watchman,” and the novel has been kept secret since the 1950s.
Only now is it being released.
I’m very clear, after seeing the book reviews, that I’m not ever “gonna” read the new version of the elder Atticus in “Watchman.”
In this new version, Atticus is a confessed racist who attended KKK rallies.
I know enough about that kind of unreconstructed southern segregationist – as I presume is fictionalized in Lee’s “Watchman” – that I don’t need to read it.
After all, the significance of the title, “to kill a mocking bird,” is that it means to kill innocence, and to denigrate Atticus in this successor novel is the same thing.
While Atticus may have been a conflated creation of Harper Lee’s imagination, I know that there really did exist men and women like the Atticus of “Mockingbird,” who showed courage in the face of racial intolerance.
The nation needs such vision now, a standard, an uplifting idea, to focus the scattered energy of our people, by which we may measure how and whether we are moving forward.
The nation is hurting but there have been southern winds of reform that are significant and encouraging because they represent change.
Aristotle taught that “spoken words” are symbols of “affections in the soul.”
There are of course many other means of expression that are symbols revelatory of the soul.
We live in a symbol system in the South of flags, place names, statues, and more that are inherent in the regional culture that reflect grave disaffection in a collective soul and perpetuate the wrongly learned values of rebellion, intolerance, segregation, slavery and hate.
This ante-bellum “arrangement” may well suit those in an enduring “rebellion” but not those who are the objects of intolerance. Continue reading