|Harper Lee (1926-2016)|
The death last week of novelist Harper Lee has unleashed a great deal of praise and adulation. This article is a good antidote for that. Harper Lee is the Rachel Carson of American fiction. -M.D.
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To Mock A Killing Bird
Okay, let me back up:
I’ve never read To Kill a Mockingbird.
I was going to add, “because I’m Canadian, duh,” but while researching this piece, I learned that Lee’s 1960 novel had long been required reading in British schools—and when it was dumped from the curriculum two years ago, there was a massive freak-out. Hey, England, you have a bunch of your own writers, no? Ah, yes, but Mockingbird’s “otherness” was clearly part of its rather twisted allure across the pond:
The South is an incredibly complex place, but there are British-held stereotypes about its attitude to race and class that this novel could reinforce, and even add to its appeal.
Translation: “American rednecks are evil, stupid, and funny!”
“The reality of black life (and crime and punishment and persecution) in the South was orders of magnitude more complex (and, frankly, inspiring) than the narrative presented in Mockingbird and other ‘civil rights’ talismans.”
Which is why I’m surprised the book wasn’t taught in Canadian schools.
Canadians are simultaneously disgusted by and deeply jealous of America’s colorful (that is, black and white) history. For the same reason Dante’s “Inferno” probably outsells his “Paradiso” by about a thousand to one, being the last stop on the Underground Railroad is a boon for national bragging rights, but it’s also the most boring part of the story. (There’s a reason our movie about it is only one minute long.)
Forcing kids to read To Kill a Mockingbird would give commie, pinko Canadian teachers (especially the many draft dodgers) such a smug, self-congratulatory thrill, I can’t believe they’ve denied themselves the excitement.
So everything I know about the story I know from the movie, which I understand is faithful to the original in a manner that’s almost unheard of in the annals of Hollywood: An innocent black man is tried for the rape of a crazy white trash lady; a Christ-like white lawyer called Atticus Finch defends the black guy, but the black guy gets lynched anyhow. And Hey-look-it’s-Robert-Duvall is the weird neighbor who saves the lawyer’s kids from the crazy white trash lady’s rape-y dad.
I don’t remember watching the movie, mind you, but I must have. Or else To Kill a Mockingbird has permeated the cultural water table so thoroughly—let’s face it, the book and film are secular scripture—that I’ve somehow absorbed the story through my skin.
And that permeation has been a disaster for the United States.
I don’t just mean how every fifth American movie or TV show apparently has to include a scene set in a steamy Southern courtroom, complete with slowly turning ceiling fans and lawyers in sweaty white shirts and suspenders, thundering about creationism, the Klan, or President Kennedy.
In real life, over the past five decades, how many thousands upon thousands of idiots went to law school because they wanted to be Atticus Finch? They give themselves goose bumps, repeating “Miss Jean Louise, stand up. Your father’s passin’” to themselves like it’s the Jesus Prayer. One day, they’re sure of it, someone will say that about them…
But because Atticus Finch is a fictional character, said idiots inevitably became the kinds of lawyers (and social workers and journalists and “activists” and politicians and their backroom operatives) who’ve transformed your city or town into a tangle of bike lanes, weekly ethnic festivals, dueling genocide museums, gluten-free day cares, free heroin-injection sites, ill-conceived “social housing” developments, “nuclear-free zones,” and Nelson Mandela memorials.
To Kill a Mockingbird taught generations of white people that black people are, if not quite “Magic Negros,” then certainly noble but timid angels incapable of sin. How many liberal judges, juries, and parole boards have freed (or ignored) African-Americans guilty of black-on-white crime because they had a sentence or two of Harper Lee’s stuck in their heads?
How many of those black criminals went on to rape and kill again? Hence my comparison of Lee to Rachel Carson: another liberal female hero whose own book—this time, about the “dangers” of DDT—has quite possibly killed more blacks than slavery.
The real villains, according to the Mockingbird worldview (as Charles Murray has documented), are white trash, who, having finally gotten the message (those morons!), are duly killing themselves in disgust.
And when real white villains can’t readily be found, one of those Atticus Finch wannabes will happily conjure some up. (I’m willing to bet $10,000 that you’d easily find an old copy of Mockingbird in Mike Nifong’s house, and maybe even a treasured first edition…)
As I’ve written here before, the reality of black life (and crime and punishment and persecution) in the South was orders of magnitude more complex (and, frankly, inspiring) than the narrative presented in Mockingbird and other “civil rights” talismans. It’s a shame Aaron Sorkin (God help us) is poised to bring the novel to Broadway next year. Fans are justifiably worried that Sorkin will West Wing Lee’s dialogue. Everyone else should brace themselves for the inevitable wave of brand-new liberal white knights and paternalistic do-gooders that production will unleash, as surely as babies follow blackouts.
From Taki's Magazine (February 16, 2016)