I have seen “To Kill a Mockingbird” exactly two times. And had exactly two different reactions.
The first was during my college years. The second was this morning.
First, the film is an extraordinary depiction of honor, of courage… and of hatred and the drive for justice. Seen mostly through the eyes of a young brother and sister and their summer visitor, this is a glimpse into a different age… a time when “the code”, as Finch strikingly calls out the chief witness’ principal offense, the temptation of a black man by a white woman, was enough for the jury and townspeople of Depression era Macon, Georgia to suppress logic and to convict an innocent man. Jem, Scout and Dill, eyewitnesses to injustice, learn, as Atticus poignantly noted: “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.” For them, it was an end to innocence.
I recall watching this the first time, feeling relief that such hatred was mostly a thing of the past. That we had made great progress since those days, and that justice was largely equally preserved. For all.
Then this morning, just two days after the violence in Charlottesville, I saw this film through an entirely different lens. This time, it broke my heart. The quaintness of the past, the enlightenment of the present were no longer steady pillars… my confidence was crushed. Hatred thrives still. Injustice pervades.
And it was the end to my innocence.