When I’m troubled by my kids, or worried by something I read in the papers, before I Google the problem, I ask, ‘what would Atticus Finch do?’
Sure it’s a stretch. Our leafy Brisbane suburb has little in common with the simmering hotbed of racial tension that was Alabama in the Great Depression, but kids are kids and wisdom is timeless. Let’s look at a couple of issues – how we might approach them now, and how Atticus dealt with them 75 years ago.
• There’s a reclusive man living in your street. Widely believed to have stabbed his elderly father in the leg with scissors. Probably kills and eats cats.
What we do now: Sadly the police can’t do much unless someone found bloody scissors or saw a cat in a sandwich, so the next step would be to get the media to investigate. Then we’d get a petition together to have the man moved. Possibly via a Facebook page. Only then would children be allowed out unaccompanied.
What Atticus did: He told Scout and Jem to respect the man’s privacy. Also, they were not to refer to him by his nickname, ‘Boo’ but as ‘Mr Arthur’. When the kids tried to lure him from his home and were chased by Arthur’s father with a gun, Atticus sided with the old man.…
• Your town is simmering with hate. An innocent man was jailed by a jury of good people. Your kids are tormented because of the job you do.
What we do now: Move. Or if that’s not possible, hide.
What Atticus did: He reminded his kids that most people are good. He pointed out that that the jury took hours to make their decision, ‘… usually it takes ‘em just a few minutes.’ That, said Atticus, ‘ … may be the shadow of a beginning.’
In the final chapters, Scout and Jem are attacked by a drunken psychopath with a vendetta against their father. Today, Atticus would be blamed for what happened to his kids – why did he let them walk home alone? And why couldn’t he be bothered to go to his kids’ school concert? Because he was too tired? Sheesh. People like that shouldn’t be allowed to have kids.
What do you think? Was Atticus Finch an idealistic fool, or the finest father in modern literature. Have times changed that much? If he lived now (not that he ever lived, but you know what I mean,) would Atticus be awarded Father Of The Year or brought to the attention of DOCs or at the very least, A Current Affair?
Not that overbooked kids and over-involved parents are anything new, of course.
From a column by Jon Carroll.
So I was walking by a school the other day and there, set up right in front of the administration building, was a woman selling Girl Scout cookies. Her daughter was in class, she explained, and she was just helping out, and did I want a couple of boxes of Thin Mints?
Did her daughter sell cookies too? I asked.
Turned out that the daughter was very busy, what with the traveling soccer games and the piano lessons and her active personal life. Of course she was also dedicated to the Girl Scouts, but there are only so many hours in a day and etc.
The girl in question, I ascertained, was 10 years old.
The Girl Scout literature in re: cookies suggests that, in addition to raising money for the organization, cookie sales build teamwork, responsibility and basic financial skills. There’s also, in theory, a sense of pride developed when a girl sells enough cookies to win a small prize of some sort.
No word yet on what emotions the girl feels if her mother wins a small prize.