Aug 8, 2009

To Kill Liberty's Outrage

Suspect we have all read or seen To Kill a Mockingbird.

Can great fiction bring intelligence to American society?

Today, when one's innocence and loss of liberty no longer naturally elicits outrage, one looks to fiction to understand the contemporary American political culture of throw 'em in jail and find common ground with the oppressors.

We need to get with the culture. Orwell and Camus don't play well in today's non-confrontational, mass incarceration times.

So Malcolm Gladwell considers Harper Lee, touching on the topic of wishy-washy liberalism vis a vis racism's assault against personal liberty in The New Yorker in his "Atticus Finch and the limits of Southern liberalism."

Gladwell reaches different conclusions than I would on the power of this comedy-drama to inform the political culture.

But if we were to take seriously the contemporary political discussion of taking away a person's liberty, we would be led to say to a Tom Robinson, 'You just need to find common ground and have a beer with the well-intentioned police officers of Alabama and the good citizenry they serve. And you're doing the right thing by not getting too uppity.'

As Bob Herbert reminds us, being innocent is no longer a defence. And that goes double for you: Don Siegelman, Georgia Thompson and Keith Roberts.

And don't be bringing up southern lynchings and Leo Frank. That's sooo last century.

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