Grits and Tamales

Life in the Deep South, by Gabriel Aguilera

Monthly Archives: November 2012

To Kill a Mockingbird

Over Thanksgiving weekend I finally read to “To Kill a Mockingbird.”  I’m sad that I missed this beautiful book in high school but I’m glad I read it while living in Alabama, which permitted me to savor it in unique ways.  It helps, too, to have visited Monroeville, Alabama.  I can imagine Jem and Scout sitting up in the balcony with African-Americans as Atticus commanded the courtroom.

This book is about many things including, among others, race, class, rural-urban cleavages, parenting, and, not least of all, a look at Southern culture during the Great Depression.  Above all, “To Kill a Mockingbird” is about ecumenical righteousness and justice.  Its main thesis is simple enough: we can improve our world by striving to be just no matter what predicaments we find ourselves in in life.  There is room for necessity, but we must nonetheless try in all circumstances to do what’s right because it makes for might.

If we pursue righteousness we will infect those around us into changing their outlook, habits, and behavior.  Slowly, culture will evolve.  In other words, “To Kill a Mockingbird” is a Quixotic book. It’s view of human nature is realist — there will always be horrible people in the world and this will require the institutions of legal justice which, at times, must be bent to necessity by righteous individuals. Even Atticus learns these lessons.  In the end, though, it’s a profoundly liberal look at the world.  Democracy, law, and education can lift up an ever-larger chunk of humanity.  We can improve ourselves as do Atticus, Scout, Jem, and many of the novel’s heartwarming characters.

To Kill a Mockingbird Courtroom.  It warms the heart to imagine Scout and Jem among African-Americans, watching their father during the trial.

Lincoln in Dixie: Part I

After work yesterday I raced home for a nap.  I was exhausted after a long week of teaching and was excited to wake up and go to the gym and then, maybe, clean my house some.  Although I moved in August, I am not near settled into Thorn Place yet.  When I woke up, however, I remembered that Lincoln is in theaters so I immediately checked my iPhone for times and, sure enough, there was a 7:15 show so I raced over only to discover that it was sold out.  Sold out!  In Dixie?  Truth is that I should have bought a ticket on-line but I figured I would get in without a problem.  Nothing ever sells out in Montgomery.

Chagrined, I drove over to one of my watering holes nearby where I ran into my colleague Adam and his wife Gayle.  We chatted for a while about work and life while a singer-songwriter strummed on his guitar and sang over the babble of the patrons.  Next, I ran into Shannon, a bar wench over at Leroy’s, and we talked about books and films.  Then I headed home to sleep, still bothered that I missed Lincoln but happy that I had had the chance to catch up with Adam and that I got to know Shannon and Gayle a little bit.

I was terribly anxious when I got it in my head to see Lincoln.  I had seen some previews and read reviews in the LA and NY Times.  The film looks too good to be true.  Still, I had my doubts because I do have Lincoln in my imagination if not my conscience.  The Lincoln that is there, of course, is not Lincoln himself but the conjuration of Lincoln that I constructed in my mind’s movie theater from three sources: David Herbert Donald,  Doris Kearns Goodwin, and, above all, Shelby Foote.  On my ill-fated drive to see Lincoln yesterday I had no doubt that the film would be a gorgeous period-piece filled with the clothing, furniture, language and grooming of the times.  But what of Lincoln himself?  In particular, would I see Shakespeare in this Lincoln?  If so, where?

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