Posted by: Mark Nielsen | July 1, 2008

Atticus Finch & the Showdown at Gitmo

I cain’t see no other way t’ do this without’n it soundin’ like a dumb book report. So I’ll pretend I’m Scout, an’ jest tell y’all what happened to me and my pa, Atticus.

See, Atticus had’ta take this case where he was defendin’ a black man named Tom accused of rapin’ a white girl. I asked him before the case why he was doin’ it, since none of the white folks in town –neither the Fine Folks nor the trash– wanted him to take it. This here’s what Atticus said back t’ me:

“For a number of reasons. The main one is, if I didn’t I couldn’t hold up my head in town, I couldn’t represent this county in the legislature, I couldn’t even tell you or Jem not to do something again.”

He said a person’s got to follow his or her conscience, not the crowd, an’ he didn’t think Tom done what he’s accused of — an’ even if he did, he’s still entitled to a fair trial.

I hear there’s the same sorta debate goin’ on nowadays, ’bout
them terr — I mean prisoners– down at Guantanamo Bay. It only makes sense: any ol’ farmer in 2002 Afghanistan coulda turned in one of his chicken-thievin’ enemies an’ accused him of bein’ a terrorist. I hear they even was givin’ out cash rewards for turnin’ people in. Don’t make it right, tho’.

Atticus even had a little armed scuffle down the jail the night ‘fore the trial started. Some men was lookin’ to lynch Tom without no trial at all, an’ we stopped ’em.

I don’t read my Bible as much as I ought, but they’s one part I remember ’cause it was both poetical an’ true at the same time, especially true o’ them bad men:

“God is light. There is no darkness in Him at all. If we say that we are in union with God while we are living in darkness, we are lying because we are not living the truth.” (1 John 1:5b-6)

Them men was living in darkness two ways: first, they waited till dark to attempt their dirty deed in secret, as evil men an’ politicians often do. An’ secondly, they was just plain ignorant, their minds darkened by racism. We don’t do that way down here no more… or at least we’re tryin’.


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