Just some thoughts and ideas going around in my head while trying to figure out where I am and where everyone else is going.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

To Kill a Mocking Bird - Redux

How long has it been, 20 or 30 years since I read the little brown book that my grandmother’s cousin kept in a box in her closet? Actually a better question would be why was I in her closet?

She kept dozens of books there; ones by people like Donald Goines and Iceberg Slim. All of them about pimping or being a drug addict or being raped and becoming someone’s bitch in prison or all 3. Ah the classics, I don’t think they write ‘em like they used to. But she had one book that has stayed with me all of these years. It was about a little girl in the 1930’s whose family life had entered into a situation that was completely foreign to her. It was about how she discovered how truth can often be hidden behind form and ritual and convention and that win or lose, sometimes the fight is all we have; the only thing that can bring meaning to our lives.

Of course I’m referring to Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mocking Bird that was first published 50 years ago this weekend. I’m not going to review the book since I’m sure that’s been done by editors and professors and plenty of other people who are much more capable than me. Plus I have not read the book since I first opened it, But I remember it. I remember not realizing that Scout, the protagonist and narrator was a girl until I was about 2 thirds of the way through the book. I remember Jem her older brother who looked after her to his utmost ability, the way that most brothers do but only when they have to. I remember reading about her father Atticus the lawyer shooting a rabid dog and defending t Tom Robinson in court not because it the heroic thing to do, but because it was the right thing to do. I remember the fear created by the presence of Boo Radley until, as with all things once the reality is known, the truth is often different from the perception.

I haven’t been to Oakland since the mid 80’s so I don’t really know what the truth is about what happened on New Year’s Day 2009 when an unarmed Oscar Grant was shot in the back and killed by a Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) police officer. I don’t know how different the bay area is from the south of the 1930’s or if there is or even was a racial element to what happened. I suspect that things are very different, but I don’t know. All I know is what I feel and that is that a young man was wrongly killed and that someone or a society should have to pay for his loss and the loss to those around him.

But whether others think of the incident as murder, man-slaughter or just deserts all I can say is that I’m reminded of a short passage in the book where Atticus said to Jem: 

“I'd rather you shoot at tin cans in the back yard, but I know you'll go after birds. Shoot all the blue jays you want, if you can hit 'em, but remember it's a sin to kill a mockingbird.”


  1. I don't want to even think about how long ago it has been since I read "To Kill a Mocking Bird." Required reading in my family's house and probably at school as well.

    Can't say that it was a cocktail table book, but it was proudly displayed on the bookshelf or reading table. It appears your cousin hide her copy from prying eyes, along with her collection of Donald Goines and Ice Berg Slim books.

    Yes Oakland is a changed place, but mostly for the better it appears what transpired last year was unfortunate and I agree somebody should be held accountable for more than a manslaughter charge, it was murder and the officer should have to spend a considerable amount of time behind bars and should have to pay the families involved a considerable amount of money.

  2. Chet - Yes this type of behavior should not be tolerated by anyone. I hope they throw the book in sentencing the officer and hope the city sued for as much money that it will take to turn around the practices that it's police forces get involved with.

  3. Ah! To Kill a Mockingbird is definitely among my top 30. Overated it is not.

    As for the killing. This could be a million stories across the world. It is precisely because of this that books like To Kill a Mockingbird should be read and understood by the majority of people. When more understand that an injustice is an injustice regardless of circumstance, we will have moved on to the next evolutionary stage.


Did you like or dislike what you just read? Go ahead, tell me why. All comments are welcome here, good or bad let's both open up and discuss our differences or our similarities.


Related Posts with Thumbnails

Google Analytics Tracking Code