My default position has always been about seeing the good in other people. I blame Atticus Finch for that. Like many of my literary, heroes there was a certain amount of misguidance involved in his teachings. Atticus was the quintessential liberal leader. He was good in the face of ignorant hatred and would never cast the first stone. Enemies were just misunderstood and evil was only a temporary state of mind.
EMPATHY was writ large on all his teachings and I listened. I modelled myself on old Atticus and believed that one day I too would be sitting on a rocker on the porch of my timber house dispensing wisdom to all who cared to hear. All mankind’s troubles could be overcome with a little bit of Maycomb County Magic. Not so.
I have always attempted to look for the good in people and have always tried to help those who most need it. It is one of my greatest personal flaws. Altruism is a poison that affects those who choose to dispense it.
An interesting development in the Mockingbird saga has come about as a result of greedy publishers printing Harper Lee’s original unedited manuscript. In that, Atticus is not written to be as saintly as he was later to become. Indeed, ‘racist’ and ‘intolerant’ are words that some reviewers have used to describe him.
Perhaps that was the truth; perhaps that is the truth. Perhaps nobody is that wise and compassionate. So, was it unwise to have believed in his teachings and to have tried to take those wise words to class after class of students hoping that their very nature would be altered by the alchemy of such a sacred tome?
I have no empirical evidence for a belief that I hold dearly, but I do believe that the novel has helped to soften some of the less crystallized opinions of some young people who have encountered it.
For others, it was probably just a stranger passing in the dark.