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The Death of Atticus Finch

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The archetypal hero in "To Kill a Mockingbird" is not regenerating in small town America.


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Atticus and Scout by

Having lived and worked in small town Texas for over twenty years, I believe I can say, with all sincerity, Atticus Finch* is dead. Or, at least, the Spirit of Atticus Finch is dead. And it appears that a new Spirit is roaming the coffee shops and hardware stores: reactionary, self-consciously socially illiterate, angry and scared. Atticus may not have been of the political, social or racial minority but he was aware of, compelled by and engaged with the issues of the day. All the native sons that could have filled Atticus' shoes have moved away and appear not to be missed.

Can small towns truly, "dry up and blow away"? Maybe not physically but they sure can spiritually. It seems that the more churches a small town has the less likely it is to be a warm, welcoming, nurturing place for young Atticus Finches. Christian morality bred xenophobia is a locally raised beast that unwittingly eats the towns budding young Atticus'.

Fear is a strange, parasitic, emotion. All the while it is protecting us it is also destroying much of what is good in us. It appears that pandering to fear and its pantheon of demi-gods: reactionary institutions, demagogues and legislation, choking the life or the will out of most potential Atticus'.

Was Atticus really just fiction -- simply a wishful fabrication of a gifted writer? No, I don't think so. I remember a bunch of us "Scouts**" way back when. It's time that all of us "Scouts" conjure up Atticus anew and be or inspire the next Atticus Finch. This being said, it's less challenging to be an Atticus in a large city, much more difficult in a small town.

I guess the challenge for small town Texas and America is to somehow manifest the collective will to accept and nurture the young Atticus' among us before they go off to play loud music or work in a tattoo parlor in Austin or Tucson. There is plenty good loud music and a lot of really great tattoos. However, I think it's time to reverse the trend.

So, next time you go out into rural America and are enjoying a "Blizzard' at Dairy Queen and you happen to see a young guy or girl that looks like they have potential -- give a wink and a nod; maybe that's all it really takes.

*Gregory Peck's character in "To Kill a Mockingbird".

** Atticus' daughter in "To Kill a Mockingbird"

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Kevin is (writing about yourself in the third person (illeism) is a trip) an artist/writer/carpenter and frustrated songwriter living in Johnson City, Texas. His latest frustrating songwriting attempt is titled, "I Touched the Hand That Touched (more...)

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