Friday, June 13, 2003

An Atticus Brief- A recently telecast survey of popular movie heroes had Gregory Peck’s portrayal of Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird ranked #1; Peck's death this week recalls that story. That #1 pick was a bit of a head-scratcher, but I think I have the answer to that. I don’t recall watching the movie, but I do remember reading the book in high school. While fans of war and action movies have any number of heroes to look to, the pacifist/liberal has fewer options. Atticus is a modern liberal hero a quarter-century or so ahead of his time. A de-facto single dad (his wife is in a mental hospital, IIRC) doing a good job of looking after Scout, Atticus fits the fractured family mode of modern fiction. His strident but gentle egalitarianism tries to strike a blow for justice in the Jim Crow South, defending a black man against a trumped-up charge of raping a white woman. He’s a liberal hero that people of all political stripes can look up to, for who’s against good parenting and racial justice? Not the positive discrimination that passes for racial justice today, but fighting for someone slated to die because he happened to be black. Atticus is also an achievable hero. Most parents would prefer that kids model themselves on Atticus than Rambo or the Terminator.

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