Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Stand up, Miss Jean Louise

I know that it's Tuesday and we should be enjoying a poem, but I happened upon the last half hour of To Kill a Mockingbird (TKAM) this morning and I just sobbed as though I had never seen the movie before in my life -- much less the hundred times that I have. I suspect I have gone on about my love for TKAM before, but here I go again.

If you have not read TKAM before or if it has been a long time, get up right this instant and power yourself to the library. If you do not do the library, click on over to Amazon and buy yourself a well-loved used copy. If you do not have the time or patience to read a book, then you may watch the movie, but -- I am telling you -- you will enjoy it more if you have read the book.

I am serious now. I worked for a year at an alternative school in Minneapolis for kids who were just getting out of juvenile detention. Most of them went straight back. It was easier. These kids were big and seen more nasty things in life than my sorry college educated white bread butt would see for a long time. I probably still haven't. One day their social studies instructor Kevin said they could have a movie day with popcorn, but they had to watch the movie he picked.

It was To Kill a Mockingbird -- an old black and white movie about old times. They were not happy. They grumbled. They complained. If they had known it was going to be this way they would have chosen to have class instead.

"Come up and watch with us," the instructor urged me. "Let's see what happens."

I went to watch the movie with them and I thought there was going to be a riot. Kevin told them they had to watch half and then if they wanted, he'd shut it off.

Halfway through the movie, Kevin shut it off. A great chorus of "Hey, man, what do you think you're doing?!" went up. The movie went back on.

I was working two jobs at the time, so as soon as the movie was ending I stood up to run to my next thing. I turned to say good-bye and these inner city boys -- big boys, tough boys, gang members, thieves, drug dealers and worse -- were crying over the fate of a fictional little white girl in a story written in 1960.

I'm just saying you better go get a copy . . . and maybe a tissue. As true maybe more so in 2010 than in 1960, we need to be reminded that "some men in this world are born to do our unpleasant jobs for us."

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