Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Song of the Mockingbird

As if you needed a second reason to watch In Plain Sight on USA Network (the first being that it is a damn entertaining TV show - far better than a lot of the dreck also airing on that channel ("Suits" anyone?)), Friday night's episode presented you with it. For it was during Friday's broadcast of IPS that USA promoted to death its "special presentation" on Saturday night of "To Kill A Mockingbird".

Gregory Peck's Atticus Finch is one of the true heroes of American cinema. When one considers just how many book-to-movie adaptations Hollywood f***s up (do not take my word for it - ask Elmore Leonard) it is surprising almost to the point of stunning just how right this particular adaptation was. A half-century ago, someone figured out how to convert a classic of American literature into a classic of American cinema. Remarkable stuff.

Atticus Finch is an attorney who gives the practice of law a good name. He is significantly more than that however. He is a human who gives humanity a good name. A person driven to do that which he believes in his heart to be right without a moment's concern for the popularity or absence thereof of his action. A father who saw fit to teach his children that, "The one thing that doesn't abide by majority rule is a person's conscience."

Harper Lee created him. He is a fictional character to be sure. Yet the ideals to which he gave voice are not make-believe. More of us than we might realize have at least a kernel of Atticus Finch inside of us. It can be hard to give voice to these days - in an era where spirited discourse has been cast aside in favor of high-decibel diatribe - but these days it is perhaps more important than it has ever been to do so. For while it takes determination to achieve success at something, it takes real courage to undertake something because it is the right thing to do, even when you reasonably anticipate that you shall fail. "Courage is not a man with a gun in his hand. It's knowing you're licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do."

These days, when it seems as if there are those among us far too eager to leap to unflattering conclusions about those with whom we have a difference of opinion and far too reluctant to cross the aisle in contemplation of arriving at a shared understanding; when it seems as if what once was black and white still is black and white with the nuanced shades of gray removed from the palette entirely, we could all use a little bit of Atticus Finch. "You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view - until you climb into his skin and walk around in it."

Fifty years further on up the road from the halcyon days of Atticus Finch. The more things change, the more they do not. The mockingbird still sings a lovely tune....

....and it still is wrong to kill one.

-AK

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