24 November 2008

To Kill a Mockingbird -- a tale for our day

This past weekend, I watched the classic To Kill a Mockingbird. I've seen the move scores of times as it is one of my favourite movies and, in my opinion, the best performance Gregory Peck ever gave. This time as I listened to his summation to the jury, I was shocked by the parallels between what he said and what our GLBT community experiences today. Here are excerpts from the summation with additions clearly marked:
[The prosecution] has relied ... upon the testimony of two witnesses whose evidence has not only been called into serious question on cross-examination, but has been flatly contradicted by the evidence ...

[GLBT have] merely broken a rigid and time-honored code of our society, a code so severe that whoever breaks it is hounded from our midst as unfit to live with...

... But what is the evidence of the offense? ... that [they fall in love with a same-gendered person] .. something that, in our society, is unspeakable...

Confident that you gentlemen would go along with them on the assumption, the evil assumption, that all [GLBT] lie, all [GLBT] are immoral beings, all [GLBT] are not to be trusted around our [children] ... An assumption that one associates with minds of their caliber, and which is, in itself, gentlemen, a lie,which I do not need to point out to you.

And so, quiet, humble, respectable [GLBT], who [have] had the unmitigated temerity to [go against tradition] and have to be put back in their place.

IN our courts, all men are created equal. I'm no idealist to believe firmly in the integrity of our courts and our jury system. That's no ideal to me. That is a living, working reality.

Now I am confident that you gentlemen will review without passion, the evidence that you have heard, come to a clear decision and restore [their rights and their families.]

In the name of God, do your duty.

I was stuck by the way Atticus puts it: the crime was to break centuries old tradition.

The facts disprove their appeal to emotion. There is no evidence to support the H8 other than religious tradition and fear.

Tradition and fear are all that stand between California citizens and equal rights. Tradition and fear -- the only weapon in their arsenal except an obscene amount of cash at their disposal.

I was so struck by the parallels in this summation that I ordered a copy of To Kill a Mockingbird for each member of the California State Supreme Court.

There is another parallel with the movie that I noticed this time: that of the roundheads vilifying TEC and ACoC for bucking tradition. These two churches must be rooted out, banished and annihilated for breaking tradition.

Yet, one of those screaming loudest for"our" conviction, Sydney, is breaking a tradition since Apostolic times. But, since "they" are doing it, it is not really a blatant violation of tradition and canon law.

The parallel? Bigots will go to any length to justify their actions, and will go to any length to both castigate and put back in their place any uppity people who make them uncomfortable.

Watching Mockingbird made me realize that things really don't change -- only the faces of both bigots and victims change.