Monday, July 12, 2010

Headline: Mockingbird

On Sunday I posted a lot about To Kill A Mockingbird on the 50th anniversary of its publication, mostly re-purposing old posts at Stage Matters and Boomer Hall of Fame. But for the Monday give-it-to-me-in-a-Twitter post, here's the "takeaway" (apart from the Harper Lee quote):

The second theme, which follows from the first and is explicitly stated as a lesson to the children in the novel, is that of cultivating empathy and understanding by trying to see the world from the other’s perspective (as Scout does finally when she stands on Boo Radley’s porch at the end), by metaphorically living in someone else’s skin, walking in their shoes. This is a lesson about life and specifically about race. It remains the most crucial lesson in our public as well as private lives, and so this too accounts for this novel’s standing.

There are a lot of reasons, or sources of arguments against racism, which animate different people to different degrees. But the principle of empathy was very powerful in the late 50s and early 60s among whites who saw the Civil Rights movement mostly from a distance. As it came closer to home, if empathy was well established, then barriers to racial equality were easier to overcome.

Empathy is likely to be a key necessity, a community and civilizational survival skill, in the difficult future, as it is today in various political wranglings with real consequences for real people, who often aren't party to the "debate."

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