“One of the most powerful tools for transformation is the willingness to ask ourselves, ‘Could I be mistaken?’ “ ~ Marianne Williamson
“A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; As I have loved you, That ye also love one another.” ~ John 13:34 The Bible
“Go and love someone exactly as they are. And then watch how quickly they transform into the greatest, truest version of themselves. When one feels seen and appreciated in their own essence, one is instantly empowered.” ~ Wes Angelozzi
This week’s post was going to be about a completely different subject. Well, not so different I suppose. I was going to comment on my feelings about politics, and not just the elections. Then last Friday morning I finished reading Harper Lee’s Go Set A Watchman and my plans changed.
When I began reading the book, even though I had tried not to, I was comparing it to To Kill A Mockingbird. Somehow I got through 12 years of school, college, and graduate school without ever having read the book. I’d seen the movie numerous times, but I didn’t read the book until about two or three years ago. When I read To Kill A Mockingbird it affected me on a very deep level. Few books have affected me that way. Go Set A Watchman is one I will be thinking about for many years to come.
When the book first came out, I’d read reviews about it. Some people condemned it for ruining their love of the character of Atticus Finch. I loved him too, because the way Gregory Peck portrayed him in the movie was very much like my own father. I wasn’t sure I wanted that image destroyed. Yet, other review comments intrigued me, so I bought the book. I’m glad I did.
One of the main themes is that often we worship one or both of our parents. We think they are perfect. It’s part of growing up to understand that human beings are complicated. Often we have to learn to love and accept our family and friends as they truly are, not as we wish them to be.
Jean Louise Finch finds out some things about her father that make her sick because they convince her that who she thought her father was is a lie. But as the events of the book move along, she learns that the new information she discovered is not quite right either. The point of view about everyone being equal that she learned from him was partly her own interpretation of who he was. Every human being is a mass of contradictions. Jean Louise and her father Atticus are no different.
Near the end of the book, Hank, a life long friend of Jean Louise’s says that he’s trying to get her to see past her father’s actions to his motivations. I was so struck by that statement, because that’s what my father used to try to get us to do. We can’t always know what is in another person’s heart, and sometimes appearances can be deceiving.
By the time I finished the last page, I was grateful for the courage Harper Lee demonstrated in writing the book. Through the events and characters I came to understand the nature of the extremely complicated relationships and long held beliefs many Southerns hold on to. Having grown up in the Pacific Northwest, I had no idea how tangled the layers of not only race relations, but the staunch belief in states rights, the class system, and even the proper roles of the sexes are in the South. Then, of course, I realized that’s the truth for the entire country. The issues of race relations aren’t going to be healed until we are willing to take a new look at our long held attitudes about people who happen to be of a different race or social class than we are.
In my opinion, To Kill a Mockingbird and Go Set A Watchman, are companion books and should be studied together. The first describes race relations and how Jean Louise’s father fits into that picture from a child’s point of view. In the second, she is shaken awake and must confront herself, her town and finally her father. When we grow up and realize our perceptions about our loved ones is incorrect, that’s the day we can learn to accept the flaws in ourselves and everyone else. In my opinion, we all need to do that on a personal and national level.
Relations among the races in this country is an unhealed wound. As my father used to say, you can’t legislate morality. Well you can’t pass laws that say all men are created equal and make people honor it either. It’s distressing to me because it seems whites have expanded racial hatred to include anyone who isn’t white. It seems that way only if you listen to the corporate media. There are rays of hope, but you have to be dedicated to finding them.
I’ve written this before, and I’ll emphasize it again, we’re at a crucial point in our country’s development. It’s time for us to grow up and acknowledge our mistakes and find ways to untangle the many threads that got us to where we are today so we can weave them into a beautiful pattern. That to me, is the theme of Go Set A Watchman. Those of us who are courageous enough must be the watchmen and stand up for caring for ALL people wherever and whenever we can in our day to day lives. If enough people do that, then we can truly become the melting pot we’ve been purported to be.
Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment or share any of my posts with friends.
Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2016