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What “To Kill a Mockingbird” can teach us of history.

October 4, 2010

Damn you Atticus!

To Kill a Mockingbird is one of my top five favorite movies (I have read the book as well, 3 times) so when it comes on television I usually stop surfing and watch, like I did last night.  Human brains have a function called the mental reticulation system, which basically means, when you get interested in something, you start noticing it everywhere.  For example, when you buy the hot pink Prius, you start seeing them everywhere.  Since I have been blogging and paying more attention to the political attitudes of our nation, my mental reticulation system has been working overtime (I see a commie in every One Nation rally).  It kicked in overtime last night.

What did I notice.  It has to do with the character of Atticus Finch, played by Gregory Peck.  Atticus is the one person, after my father, who I try to emulate in my life.  He is just, honest, loves his children, willing to sacrifice for his principles, and uber-tall with a deep voice that can scare bunnies!  And in the context of the story, he is a progressive teachers wet-dream.

Some history.  Basically the story boils down to a black man being wrongly accused for raping a white girl in depression era Alabama.  Atticus is tasked to defend this man, and despite evidence of his innocence ,”spoiler alert”, he loses.  But it is the character of Atticus that makes the story so great, and an ill-informed teacher might think he a progressive.

Why?  He defends a black man despite pressure from the white town to phone it in.  The town serves as a foil to Atticus, racist, genteel, aww hell, just think cracker-ass-cracker and you get the picture.  Lets use our imagination and think what an excitingly mundane teacher would infer from this situation — Atticus good progressive.  Honky-ass-honkies evil conservatives.  Lets investigate history and see if that is correct.

Real quick history about the party of Jackson, the democrats for you college students.  Founded on slavery, oh and stealing land from the indians (not from India for the aforementioned college goers).  Their favorite voting block is not surprising, white farmers.

Following the Civil War, republicans who were formed out of abolitionists (against slavery for you col…oh you get the point), gained control of the majority of Southerm states during reconstruction.

"Democrats" for the historically challenged.

I will quote William P. Meyers’ A Brief History of the Democrat Party here, “The re-emergence of the Democratic Party in the South was engineered by the Ku Klux Klan and allied individuals. By preventing former slaves (not surprisingly, they were all Republicans) from voting, and with the restoration of the right of former Confederate soldiers to vote and hold office, by 1872 the Democratic Party was restored to power in the South.”  Wow, never learned that in school.

As a brief side note, I will quote Meyer’s again about democrat tactics in regards to ensuring the vote went their way.  “The first tactic was simply cheating: stuffing ballot boxes, miscounting, or using force to turn voters away from polling places. It had worked to disenfranchise African-Americans, and it worked to prevent Populist victories. The second tactic was running Democrats who pretended to support Populist goals. These Democrats delivered only wind.”  Sounds familiar don’t it?

To conclude our history, now in the depression, Meyer’s states, “the public blamed the Republicans for the troubles, but were not ready to embrace the Socialist or Communist parties. The coalition of southern racists and northern city machine politicians known as the national Democratic Party was resurrected and placed in the presidency and both houses of Congress. But it was undergoing major changes, led by men who had been influenced by Socialist and Populist ideas.”  Hmm, that sounds familiar too.

So whitey (racist white people, to clarify) in the depression era south was most likely democrat, who knew?  But they aren’t the same as progressives, progressivism is a state of mind man!  Remember, we are talking about brilliantly stupid teachers not knowing history here, not some metaphysical state of retardation.  So in the realm of that premise, I will make another assumption, most people associate progressives with democrats and vice-versa.  If you don’t like it, write your own damn blog.

So where was I?  Atticus wasn’t a racist.  He sacrificed himself for his principles of justice (he almost got lynched defending the town jail from a mob of angry democrats), he let his kids call him by his first name (always wondered about that one, seems pretty liberal for the 30’s), he was even willing to turn in Boo Radley for killing a man who hurt his child when he would rather let him go (he believes in the law, not his own feelings).  This is a man who stood for something.

He was a lawyer who accepted payment in the form of potatoes.  He went to law school because he believed in the constitution and our system of laws.  He invited poor children to his house for supper, and scolded his daughter for being rude at the supper table.  Because of the trial, he was dubbed a “nigger lover” when that was pretty unpopular to be, with two children in the democrat controlled south.  And unlike most democrat men nowadays, he raised two children by himself (his wife died).

In essence he was a great man who stood by his principles.  In contrast, the crackers in the town were willing to overlook obvious testimony to convict a black man and remove any shame on the white father who actually raped the girl (his own daughter).

This is not a story of one lone progressive standing up to the evil conservatives who only care about punishing a black man.  It is in fact, the opposite, once you understand the history.

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