I know 'To Kill A Mockingbird' is a movie many people claim has changed their life and that is great. But way before the sensationalism the movie created, long before it became a fixture on school reading lists, 'To Kill a Mockingbird' gave me -- a small girl living only a few miles from the set of the film, from the story and from the author -- the chance to open my eyes.
I grew up in a small community about an hour south of the Monroeville, Alabama area. My world was quiet, safe and small. Life involved climbing trees and adventures with my brothers. I thought this was the way it was meant to be, and never considered anything different.
Racism ran rapid, though in those days no one used the word 'racism.' (Whether or not it could even be found in a dictionary at the time is anyone's guess.) We all lived and acted as expected, because that was what we did. No questions asked. We mechanically moved in the same direction as our parents, shared their ideas and respected their values. Never once thinking there was any other way. And like a river, one rock collected in a stream, then another until the riverbed became rocky.
As a small child, I believed everything I was taught, including respecting family, which was and still is most important in my life. But it wasn't until 1968, after having mistakenly sized up my world at a young age, that I learned of the effect a person can have, directly or indirectly, on someone else.
At the time, I had never heard of Harper Lee, or of her novel 'To Kill a Mockingbird.' As I said, my world revolved around pomegranate trees, snakes in the fields, picnics on the grass, treasures to bury and gullies to find. Until one Friday night when my younger sister and I were sent to bed early. I figured there had to be something showing on television I wasn't supposed to see. And knowing that my three brothers were allowed to watch, but I wasn't, made me determined to do so.
After "going to bed," I did what most children would do: I snuck out. Finding a spot behind a door, I peeked at the tiny, round, black and white screen shining from our huge wooden cabinet. It was there, behind my parents sitting on the couch, safely hidden from their view that I watched. And save for some commercial breaks, neither of my parents spoke a word during the movie.
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As an eight year old who practiced the golden rule and religiously went to Sunday school, the movie took me by surprise. I could not understand how or why someone would lie to put a black man in jail. Or how anyone could murder another simply because of the color of their skin. would have seemed unlikely
Years later, now that I have long passed the childhood I considered safe and routine, I understand better. Our world is not perfect. Even in the 21st century, ugly hatred still exists. We can think it does not, try to overlook the hurtful innuendos, but we are only ignoring what is a continuing problem.
If we ignore the problem, the river will slowly collect more stones, little by little. Then one day, the riverbed will be too rocky to step on and we'll have no idea why.
Submitted by: Rose Murphy
More On 'To Kill a Mockingbird':
Stars: Gregory Peck, Mary Badham, Philip Alford, Robert Duvall, Frank Overton
Directed by: Robert Mulligan
You Might Enjoy It If You Like: 'Mississippi Burning'
Where You Can Get It: Buy It Here | Rent It Here
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