The passing of American novelist Harper Lee last Friday hit me harder then other celebrity deaths. The author of ,“To Kill a Mockingbird”, was way ahead of her time.
The Pulitzer Prize winning novel was published right at the onset of the Civil Rights Movement in the 60’s. It challenged many social norms in the south and tackled the issues of racial injustice, class, and gender roles.
It couldn’t have come at a better time and became even more popular when the Academy Award winning adaptation was released in 1962. Today, I don’t know anyone who went to school without having to read the novel or watch the film.
Now, back to my original point - when I learned of Harper Lee’s death it struck me as a reminder that we still struggle with the same issues almost 60 years later. Racial injustice is a huge talking point in the news today. From Donald Trump wanting all Muslims to wear tags, to officers killing innocent minorities using excess force. The wage gap between the highest earning 1 percent and the middle class seems to grow wider year after year.
Gender roles in today’s society are also a hot topic with feminist movements and social justice movements making noise all around the world.
These are the same themes that Harper Lee tackled in, “To Kill a Mockingbird”, so when I heard of her death that was the first thing that popped into my head. I couldn’t help but think that Harper Lee’s message has not fully been realized or understood.
But, on the brighter side, society is very different than it was 60 years ago and I truly believe “To Kill a Mockingbird” had something to do with that. I believe that Harper Lee’s death inspired the same thoughts that I have and has served as a reminder to all of us, that there is still a ton of work to be done.
“To Kill a Mockingbird” is still the most widely read novel by schoolchildren and a 1991 survey by the Book of the Month Club and The Library of Congress Center for the Book found that, “To Kill a Mockingbird”, was rated behind only the Bible in books that are "most often cited as making a difference”. So, why don’t we practice what we preach and continue to fight for justice in all areas of life.
Valentine’s Day. What comes to mind when you think about Valentine’s Day? Love? Maybe. Family, friends? Maybe. You might have forgot about it until now and are about to rush to the store to buy your significant other something. Maybe you’re single this year and Valentine’s Day just brings up memories you were trying your best to forget. You see, Valentine’s Day can be a very polarizing holiday. If it can even be called a holiday. You have your happy couples and then all of the lonely single people reminded of their loneliness everywhere they go that day. Sometimes it’s better to just stay home and try to avoid it all. Valentine’s Day used to feel like a holiday. I remember it had the same magic of other holidays such as Christmas or Thanksgiving. A day of happiness, a day of celebration, where the daily reminders of the brutal winter were forgotten for at least a few hours. Remember when we were young and every kid at school would have cards to pass out to all of their friends? Everyone was included and Valentine’s Day would be about what it was supposed to be about from the beginning, love. Not just love for a significant other, but love for friends, love for family, love for your neighbour, love for strangers. A celebration of love in general. Corporations looking for an easy money grab have done their best to belittle our celebration of love. It has turned into a day about spending money. About one-upping each other. Who has the better gift? Is this good enough? In fact, In the United States, the average Valentine’s spending has increased every year, from $108 a person in 2010 to $131 in 2013. In other countries, Valentine’s Day includes everyone. In Guatemala for example, February 14th is known as Affection Day and people perform acts of appreciation for their friends. In Finland and Estonia, Valentine’s Day is known as “Friend’s Day” and is more about remembering friends and not significant others. I say we bring back the magic of yesterday and this coming Sunday, remember that Valentine’s Day is a celebration of love. Do something kind for your neighbour. Tell your friends you appreciate them and give your dog that last piece of bacon sitting on the plate.