Another Man’s Skin

Sara Kulwich/New York Times

If you read my last blog, you are aware I went to New York City to see “To Kill a Mockingbird” on Broadway. It was an exciting moment. The production did not disappoint. That’s not to say that it followed the script and the characters step by step, but it did take a 1930’s era story and raise it up to the conscience of a 2019 audience. The play produced 57 years after the release of the award-winning movie, introduced a new character and a new dressing for an old argument.

First, the new character, Link Deas. He appeared in the novel but not the movie. He was Tom Robinson’s employer that explained how Tom lost the function of his arm. Link was identified as the town drunk who always went around with a bottle wrapped in a paper bag with two straws. He later crosses paths with Jem and Scout and offers up his enlightened opinion of the people of Maycomb and how he has managed to keep most of them away from him for many a year.

Second comes the argument. Atticus Finch, played masterfully by Jeff Daniels tries to teach his children, just as Gregory Peck did in the film, that you shouldn’t judge a man until you have walked around awhile in his skin. In the play, it causes Scout to ponder while bringing Jem to argue. He struggled to accept the notion that a man as mean and evil as Bob Ewell could have a redeeming nature. Jem said why would he want to walk around in the skin of a man that doesn’t spend much time there himself. Atticus points out the Mr. Ewell recently lost his job and that doing so has put the rest of his life as he knows it in jeopardy.

The new dressing was a statement Atticus makes during the argument. He says that when a man joins a group or a mob, he ceases to be himself, gaining his anonymity, no longer an individual and no longer responsible for the rantings of the mob. The opinions of the group are that of the group and not necessarily the opinion of each individual of the group. That statement stayed with me during the rest of the first act and well into the intermission.

I have purposely avoided political debate in my postings and blogs. I have not felt comfortable bringing those sides into my feelings about leading a better life and lifting up our fellow man. However, like Jem, I have a problem with this discussion. In the anger and the disunion shown in this world, I am not comfortable giving someone a pass for hanging with extremists and bowing out of the venom by saying it was the group’s opinion not mine. That simply doesn’t work.  If you run with a mob, chant their slogans, carry their torches, whether you agree with every plank of their platform, your support lifts up the anger of the group and paints all members of the mob with the same brush, no matter what you whisper in private.

Yes, I believe in lifting each other up, being positive support but not at the expense of my integrity. I will not allow myself to sink into a pit just to keep another man company. I would rather help him to find a way out of that pit. The racism portrayed in this 1930 story has not washed away in time. For me, after spending the last five days walking the streets of New York, streets that carry people of all color, people from every country of the world, streets where English is a minority language, I never felt out of place, never felt like my place in this country has been taken over by others nor did I feel that any one person I saw didn’t have every right to walk the same sidewalk that I did. That is America, just as it has always been, a collection of people with the same dream and the same right to live that dream, no matter what brought them here.

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