What does that mean and other thoughts on immigration, raising kids and reading.
“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it,” — Harper Lee, “To Kill A Mockingbird.”
My kids read “To Kill a Mockingbird” in the ninth grade and they both vaguely quoted the above to me, asking if I knew what it meant. They did, and teenagers like to let you know when they get it and see whether or not you get it, too, and the obvious answer is yes.
But the not-so-obvious question on the heels of the above answer ought to be asked.
How do we not fall prey to the conceit that we are all Atticus Finch or Boo Radley, or whatever character grabbed your imagination when you read the book at about the same age as your children?
How do we apply Lee’s insight to our lives in Laguna Beach, a town that is less (far less) than 1 percent black and, of course, no crime has been committed here and no righteous litigation is part of our narrative.
Perhaps we can do it by asking ourselves a straight-up question.
Do I have empathy for the people, mostly Mexican, who I employ to clean my toilets, mow my lawn and have hired to care for my children, and if I have empathy am I willing to act on it? If I have empathy, am I willing to extend that empathy to paying these folks a living wage and showing up at an America First rally that takes aim at them and not at me? And will it do any good, anyway?
And, of course, from there I have to ask myself if even this gesture is not an act of conceit.
Am I pretending that I would do what Atticus Finch did by doing the right thing, knowing he would lose and it may very well cost someone a life and impact the lives of his children? Do I think I have been cast as Gregory Peck? Is this my 15 minutes? My list of heroes has Peck and Andy Warhol side by side, so am I equal parts righteous and irony? The answer to the last question is I am probably more irony than righteous, but irony is a luxury. Is righteous a luxury too?
Resident Lisa Aslanian is the mother of twin teenagers. She earned her doctorate from the New School for Social Research in New York. She is pursuing a masters in clinical psychology.