Standing with Atticus

I can remember when I first sat down to read To Kill A Mockingbird. I was a freshman in high school, a mere fourteen years old. It was supposed to be an assignment for my Honors English class and we were only supposed to read a certain number of chapters at a time. It was a Saturday afternoon- by Sunday night I had finished it.

Atticus Finch became the idol of empathy, equality, kindness and justice I wanted to base my life on.

“Scout,” said Atticus, “nigger-lover is just one of those terms that don’t mean anything—like snot-nose. It’s hard to explain—ignorant, trashy people use it when they think somebody’s favoring Negroes over and above themselves. It’s slipped into usage with some people like ourselves, when they want a common, ugly term to label somebody.”

“You aren’t really a nigger-lover, then, are you?”

“I certainly am. I do my best to love everybody… I’m hard put, sometimes—baby, it’s never an insult to be called what somebody thinks is a bad name. It just shows you how poor that person is, it doesn’t hurt you.”

Atticus was a symbol of what humanity is at its best. While his relationship with Scout sometimes seemed cold and hyper-formal, I think it was important for him to be seen outside of the idolized father role. He wasn’t this man because Scout perceived him that way, he simply WAS that way.

“First of all,” he said, “if you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view […] until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

I know my mom and I have a thing, sometimes, when something horrible is going on in the world, or we feel that no one has the courage to say what really needs to be said- we say, “We need an Atticus.” It’s true, we need more people like Atticus Finch and less paid, ignorant, talking heads. We need wisdom and compassion and empathy.

“This time we aren’t fighting the Yankees, we’re fighting our friends. But remember this, no matter how bitter things get, they’re still our friends and this is still our home.”

“Jem, see if you can stand in Bob Ewell’s shoes a minute. I destroyed his last shred of credibility at that trial, if he had any to begin with. The man had to have some kind of comeback, his kind always does. So if spitting in my face and threatening me saved Mayella Ewell one extra beating, that’s something I’ll gladly take. He had to take it out on somebody and I’d rather it be me than that houseful of children out there. You understand?”

“I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.”

So that brings us to now: Go Set A Watchman has been released and there is an upheaval at how this piece paints Atticus.

I have not read this work, and I’m not sure if I ever will…and here is why: I am a writer, I know the process, and I truly do not believe Harper Lee ever had any intentions of releasing the book- the Atticus in that story is not the character she wanted him to be.

Go Set a Watchman was written before To Kill A Mockingbird. Anyone who has written, and I mean really written, knows that some of their best characters and themes are re-used and built from old ones that we tried and didn’t work. I have about 7 short stories and a few more unfinished pieces sitting in my desk right now. I have one in particular, I love the overall story/theme, I want to keep the main plot, the character is good- but the girl has got some issues…she needs work. I may develop her further in a different story…similar to the last but change some events for her sake. I could say the same with other characters from other stories I have- they aren’t what I want them to be. Maybe I could put them in a different situation? Maybe I could make their kids older or younger? Maybe keep the kids the same but for the story to really be the statement I want the main character needs to be changed.

Writing is a process. Maybe the Atticus in Go Set A Watchman was a character that needed work. By the time she completed TKAM he was a character that would withstand the test of time and culture.

Of course, there have been questions about the legalities of the release of Go Set A Watchman, questions concerning Lee’s mental state and health, and her comprehension about the publication. Was she pressured or coerced into it? Was she convinced that it was a good idea? We don’t know now, and I don’t know if we ever will. All I can say is that she published To Kill A Mockingbird as her sole work- and for decades she stood by it as her legacy. She could have published Go Set a Watchman at any point in time in the past 50 years, when she was completely and verifiably lucid. There are two different Atticus characters because the first run was not what she wanted… or he would have been the same in the book she choose to publish in 1960.

All of this being said. I stand by the Atticus I know. I stand by THAT Atticus being the man that Harper Lee wanted to give us. We need characters like him and we need his legacy to inspire further generations.

“but before I can live with other folks I’ve got to live with myself.” Atticus Finch

Love is Love!!!! Marriage Equality Wins!

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When I woke up this morning, I was rolling in personal turmoil. My life is a mess right now. I had originally intended to make this post a commentary on the notion of bisexuality being a phase (because I am SO goddamn sick of hearing it). And then it happened. Twenty minutes after I woke up this morning the SCOTUS released their ruling on marriage equality.

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What a beautifully worded statement from the Court and Justice Kennedy. For those of you who don’t follow all of these cases, Justice Kennedy has played an incredibly important role in the court this week, and acted as the swing vote for marriage equality.

My stomach has churned in recent weeks over this case. This case where the future of so many people rested in the hands of these 9 people. I’m usually extremely dissatisfied with the state of this country. This oligarchy (that’s a post for a different time). As much as I love to hear RBG go off, the thought of having to read her dissent on this case while bigots all across the country celebrated the marginalization and oppression of an entire community of Americans made me sick to my stomach.

Instead, thank goodness, I opened my Facebook to this…

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LOVE WINS!!!

I’ve spent the remainder of the day crying over news stories and photos. I’m extremely proud of my country right now. I’m proud that we are moving past the archaic and outdated ways of thinking and we are FINALLY granting everyone the allowances and rights guaranteed by marriage.

Unfortunately, there is still work to do. Some states are passing laws stating that marriages can only be officiated by members of the Clergy (making it more difficult for same-sex partners to find someone willing to marry them). In Texas, there are already clerks refusing to issue licenses to same-sex couples (because apparently the highest court in the states ain’t gon’ make them go ‘gainst Jesus, or ya’ know, do their duty as government employees). Our unity and tenacity over this issue still needs to be going strong, because it is far from over.

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As a bisexual woman (which is NOT a phase, thank you very much). The chances of me wishing to enter into a same sex union are 50/50. Right now I’m pretty much adverse to marriage, in my case, in general. But who knows what the future holds.

I know people are dying to hear my story *rolls eyes* so I figured I’d incorporate it a little bit here. I have always, as long as I can remember, been attracted to boys and girls. I never thought my attraction to women was wrong, in a way I felt as if it were a more special, more sacred type of feeling. There is no way to describe the relationship dynamics and how they differ, they’re just different. Both have led to absolute pure bliss, both have led to heartbreak. I have cried over girls just as I have over boys. Why have most of my relationships been hetero male/female? I don’t have a good answer. The relationships I’ve had with women, no one really ever knew about. I wasn’t necessarily out when they happened. I’m still not sure if I’m 100% out, I think I’m transparent and open about my sexuality, but there are still some people in my life that I haven’t sat down and said it to explicitly.  I just haven’t found it necessary.

But this isn’t about me. This is about the couples all across the country who don’t have to worry about entering a state where their marriage is unrecognized. It’s about their ability to be recognized as a spouse and next of kin as their lover lay ill in the hospital. This is about recognizing, in every state and at every level that love is love, and marriage is a government institution, and the rights of it are for all of us

Today, in the midst of all the ugliness that we see in this world everyday, love won- and that is something to celebrate!

Raising Racially Conscious Children in Today’s America

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I have been given the opportunity to raise two beautiful boys. Blonde haired, blue eyed boys who will grow up in the luxury of middle class. I’ve read commentaries like this before. Instilling the sensibility in our children to recognize the problems in the world and the privileges they are automatically granted because the color of their skin and their socio-economic standing. It is certainly what I plan to do, what I’m trying to do. Parenting on its own is a difficult task, just as difficult is navigating these lessons in life with little ones. What do I say? How do I say it? What is appropriate and when?

Then I see this photo. I see this little shaggy haired toddler hugging someone because he loves people and loves to hug. I see my own son.

A realization occurs- so simple really. If I raise my kids to love and to empathize, if I raise my kids to seek out honest and reliable information about the world around them, and if I continue to be, as an example, the kind of person I want them to be- the rest will come.

Do I think it’s important to use opportunities, when they present themselves in our community or on our TV’s, to talk to my children about the “what” and “why?” Absolutely. But if they aren’t empathetic, it won’t matter. If they aren’t taught to love people for the sake of humanity, then it won’t matter.

I echo Eugene Victor Debs, I share his sentiments. I want my children to as well. As long as others must struggle for the same rights, whether granted legally or socially, none of us are truly free.

I feel like I’m starting to rant, but honestly, I’m getting to be tired of it.

I’m tired of these talking heads on TV, absolute dishonesty and filth coming out of their mouth, literally poisoning the minds of the nation. I’m tired of the people who are satisfied to take their word for, especially when the truth is a 10 second fact-check away. I’m tired of this game of distraction, trying to spin things that are so evidently clear just to fit an agenda.

There’s a serious problem in the country, there’s a serious problem in this state. We have to change the way we think, act, and talk about these issues- or we’ll fail.

I encourage everyone to evaluate how they live…are you doing anything to help or are you hindering?

“If it had not been for the discontent of a few fellows who had not been satisfied with their conditions, you would still be living in caves. Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization. Progress is born of agitation. It is agitation or stagnation.” Eugene V. Debs