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Thursday, July 17, 2014

Watching the Ugly Mockingbird

Readers of my blog know that I watch old movies — the classics — on Netflix DVDs. Somehow, movies are added to my Netflix queue as quickly as I watch the ones already on it! Back in the spring, with my queue holding at 140+ titles, I sorted the queue according to the consensus rating that Netflix assigns to each movie. It seemed like an objective way to decide which movies to watch next. Best, first.

Problem was, my process promoted To Kill a Mockingbird to the top of my queue.

The Mockingbird DVD arrived over two months ago. It lay idle on my dresser for a while, and then I dropped it into my laptop bag with the intent of watching it during one of my overseas trips. But many such trips were completed without touching the DVD again; it accrued a good percentage of the mileage that Apollo 11 did.

Why the prolonged avoidance, eventually recognized as clearly willful, of a movie that I myself had chosen? If you grew up in Montgomery, Ala. in the 1950s and 1960s as I did, you'd understand.

I've seen the ugliness that the movie depicts, first-hand. Alright, I wasn't a personal acquaintance of an African-American man who was nearly lynched and then convicted of a high felony that he obviously didn't commit, but believe me: I know the thought patterns and behaviors of the white majority in not-so-fictional Maycomb, Ala. I heard the N and N-L words far too often in Montgomery — never in my own household, mind you, but in plenty of other places around the city. Hell no, I'm not forgetting such despicable ugliness. I can't forget.

On American Airlines today, three hours late leaving Heathrow and seated in 21B with no one in 21A, I finally found enough courage to watch Mockingbird... to face again what nearly all of the South was like during my parents' childhood, what most of the South was like during my childhood, and what some of the South, the nation, and the world is like still.

OMG. May people watch Mockingbird a hundred years from now and continue to be moved to horror, tears, and resolve.