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As you read this post, possibly millions of people have read Go Set a Watchman, the highly anticipated first-written draft and sequel to the beloved To Kill a Mockingbirdboth by Harper Lee.

The first printing of Harper Lee’s anticipated first book, Go Set A Watchman made recent history with a first printing of 1-3 million copies (depending on last-minute pre-orders). For comparison, To Kill a Mockingbird printed only 5,000 copies in 1960 for its first printing. Most 8th and 9th graders in the United States read it in their English or American Literature classes and most likely will continue to do so for generations to come.

I don’t anticipate Go Set a Watchman to be received in the same way.

In addition, I am not ready to read this book and probably never will. 

I, and many others are still not convinced that Harper Lee has given genuine and of sound mind consent to have the book published. I would not expect there being legal issues, though. It is not definitive though whether she gave the publisher the “go” to publish it. Nevertheless, I am no conspiracy theorist as there are plenty of articles that have covered the issue. Due to her health, rumored to be almost blind and deaf, I cannot imagine she has even looked at the manuscript in years.

The title, Go Set a Watchman, comes from the Bible, Isaiah 21:6 (KJV):

For thus hath the Lord said unto me, Go, set a watchman, let him declare what he seeth.

It alludes to Scout, now commonly known as Jean Louise Finch, and her view of her father, Atticus Finch, as the moral compass (“watchman”) of Maycomb. Atticus Finch is indeed the watchman in To Kill a Mockingbird. 

Scout (Mary Badham) and Atticus (Gregory Peck in 'To Kill a Mockingbird' (1962)

Scout (Mary Badham) and Atticus (Gregory Peck in ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ (1962)

I read To Kill a Mockingbird twice in high school; once at my first high school in Kansas City, then again at my second high school in St. Louis. I read it during such an important point of my life, in my formative years and during a move in which I felt so alone and like an outsider, much like the characters in Mockingbird. The book helped me see people better from their perspective, to be patient, courageous, and not rush to judgment. I trust other children experienced it in similar ways.

It is hard not to admire Atticus. Played brilliantly by Gregory Peck in the movie by the same name soon after the book’s release, it is probably the finest adapted screenplay ever created. The American Film Institute in 2003 released its 100 Heroes in 100 Years list and Atticus Finch topped it. I don’t think I’ve ever stood up and cheered louder when the list was announced during the television special.

In the new book, Go Set a Watchman, the Atticus we know is humanized further and is discovered to be more of a racist and complex person. In Lee’s new book, he is a changed watchman.

Atticus Finch matters to me, and many others I suppose, because he is one of the closest personas we could envision to what God looks like as a our Father. We know Atticus is not perfect, unlike Christ, but he is as Peggy Noonan refers to as “calm, reliable, full of integrity and always there-the kind of father anyone would want and few would have.”

I mourn what has become of Atticus Finch in this book. But, who am I to judge? After all, he is just a fictional character. But he still matters like any beloved character we love who passes away – I wrote about this a few years ago as often times it can feel like we lost someone we really knew. I don’t want to lose Atticus, though.

But, we can rest assured.

“Atticus never lived and can never die, and if you want to visit him you can pick up a book. America is an interesting place and we don’t have to look to fiction to be inspired.” – Peggy Noonan

Wise and comforting words, Peggy.

There is more to Atticus, though.

If we truly want to find Atticus, read the book of John in the Bible and you’ll see him more beautifully than ever. Atticus is a mere modern-day reflection of our true Father.

He has always been there and has never left us. Rest assured.

 

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

– John 1:1

 

 

The other day I was driving in my car and The Rolling Stones’ You Can’t Always Get What You Want was playing. It is an iconic song from the Stones but it is also the memorable opening song played during the funeral procession in the movie, The Big Chill.

I remember my parents in the 1980s sharing how much that movie meant to them and how it captured their generation and its joys and struggles. My parents were born in 1944 and 1945 so they would associate themselves with the Baby Boomer Generation but as the joke in the movie Field of Dreams went, they had two fifties and movies straight into the seventies. In other words, they didn’t fully associate themselves with the hippie movement yet they experienced the complexities of the Vietnam era. Like my parents, I have always felt like I was in a lost generation being born in 1978 and am often thrown in either the younger part of Generation X or older in Generation Y.

parenthood-1989

Harper Lee said it best in the book and movie To Kill A Mockingbird,

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view . . . until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

Lee’s wisdom applies to how we feel about people of different generations. In my observations, it seems like the newest generation seems to be labeled as the most “selfish” when if we study history, each younger generation was judged in a similar way. For example, in life I have witnessed many people blame the Baby Boomer generation for their perceived lack of morals but as they are getting older, it has given us time to let history tell their story better. By giving them time, we are learning that they are a generation with great strengths and complexities and we can better understand their impact on the way we live today.

I believe we will be better people if we take time to learn about each other, which will minimize incomplete judgments. The past century has been defined by many things but one of them is the way movies can tell each generation’s story. I have compiled a helpful list of movies that best define each generation. The list is compiled from my personal observations, research and comparison of similar lists online and from polling friends. I don’t expect everyone to agree with this list but my hope is for this to be a way to learn more about our generations through the art of movies.

I isolate three types of movies for each generation; cultural, comedy, and war. I want to know what makes people laugh, how they live and what they fight for. I have watched all of these movies and appreciate them uniquely for what they represent. I hope you will enjoy them too.

The Greatest Generation – The “G.I. Generation” or “WWII Generation” (1925-1939))

Silent Generation / The Boomer Generation – “The Sandwich Generation” or “War Babies” Born 1939-1964

Generation X – The “Gen X’ers” or “MTV Generation” Born 1965-1979

Generation Y & Millennials The “Millennial” or “Echo Boomers” Born 1980-1991

Generation Z – The “iGeneration” Born 1991-present

Which movies do you feel best defines your generation? Why?

Prior to watching the movie Iron Lady (2011) I figured that it would be a typical one-sided look at the conservative mind of Margaret Thatcher. Instead I found it as an intriguing study of an ordinary woman from an ordinary background overcoming incredible odds while the supporting character was her conservatism. It helps that the great Meryl Streep plays her (and well deserved the Oscar). Thatcher in the movie is quite quotable and didn’t rise up to become the longest-serving (1979–1990) British Prime Minister of the 20th century, and the only woman ever to have held the post for nothing.

“We will stand on principle… or we will not stand at all.”

There seems to be some truth to the line, “Well-behaved women seldom make history.” But how many amazing women don’t get noticed?  The unsung heroes are also the ones I want to know. Even today as a man it seems more difficult for a woman than a man to succeed in a career outside of the home and we should admire them uniquely. My wife and I are blessed and humbled to raise two wonderful daughters and we feel the responsibility to lead them carefully. I’d love to look up to their mother, grandmothers and other female relatives to learn their stories of perseverance. I want to also intentionally introduce the wide variety of female heroes.

There are great women to admire like Margaret Thatcher, Mother Teresa, Anne Frank, Helen Keller, Susan B. Anthony, Florence Nightingale, Joan of Arc, Sandra Day O’Connor, Sally Ride, J.K. Rowling, Harper Lee, or even biblical characters like Mother Mary, Ruth, Sarah, and Hannah, perhaps.  Like Margaret Thatcher, no matter what political philosophy one holds you can’t deny the spirit and tenacity of modern women like Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin, and Oprah Winfrey. These women did some amazing things whether in the forefront or quietly behind the scenes and slowly their story became told with time. I want to tell their stories to my girls and teach them about these women’s strengths and yes even their weaknesses.  I want my girls to understand that none of these women were perfect but they made a difference because of some specific things and possess unique qualities to admire.

The qualities I’ve always admired in women who have made a difference are strength, faith, humility, gratitude, grace, perseverance, drive, patience, loyalty, and creativity.

Now I’m just white, 30-something male living in the burbs.  But I am also a dad who cares about his girls and wants to introduce them to some amazing women as they grow up.

Ladies, what say you?  

Who do you admire and why? Who inspired you when you were growing up?

Who are the unsung female heroes we can look up to?