The Rarity of Moral Outliers

As you’ve probably surmised, I find this whole debate about “Go Set a Watchman” rather fascinating, especially in terms of how it speaks about the late and present-day South.

Reading this article, I couldn’t help thinking that Lee employed a brilliant strategy to sell lots of books.  But there is apparently much about Finch that is true to life, too.

Even the most progressive people are the products of their society. There were very, very few Southerners living in the South in, say, the 30’s or 40’s who were equipped psychologically and intellectually to see entirely beyond their particular time and place. Even growing up in the South in the 70’s, I knew lots of elderly Southern whites who treated their fellow black Southerners with unfailing kindness and understanding but who nonetheless held to many, if not most, of the prevailing views on race.   And that holds true for any place and epoch, not just the Depression-era South.

Maybe I’ve gotten morally cynical as I age, but it strikes me that true moral mavericks – outliers – are exceedingly rare in any culture. Heck, as much as I love the Atticus Finch character, I have always had a hard time swallowing the premise that a reasonally affluent, culturally influential white male in Depression-era south Alabama held consistently progressive views.

Judge James Edwin Horton, who adjudicated the Scotsboro case, certainly was a man far ahead of his time and place, but i would imagine that he, if pressed, would have evinced many of the same views on race as his contemporaries.

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About Jim Langcuster

A Southern late-Baby Boomer whose post-retirement focus is on building a post-racial, post-Confederate Southern regional identity. If the election of 2016 underscored one thing, it is that this country is intractably divided and that radical devolution of power to localities and states is the only way to save the American Union.
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