Scene and Heard

Atticus's Namesake Brings to Mind Need for Tolerance and Respect

Gregory Peck played the just, honorable lawyer Atticus Finch in the 1962 movie
Gregory Peck played the just, honorable lawyer Atticus Finch in the 1962 movie "To Kill a Mockingbird." (Associated Press)
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By Scene And Heard
Sunday, August 9, 2009

In a summer when questions of race have again come to the fore, this seemed to have a place in the discussion.

I stride beside the wire-haired bundle of boundless energy, trying gamely to keep him in proper heel position. I utilize a short leash as the dog trainer has advised and coo quiet reminders and praise. He is a feisty terrier and needs these reminders often.

Looking up, I see an elderly couple strolling toward us. "Easy," I order. "Heel," I say and think, "Please do not lunge at the nice old couple."

They approach, smiling. They lean down to meet my canine charge. "What a cute dog," the woman says grinning at my wiggly Welsh terrier straining on his leash, wolflike mouth wide, delighted at the encounter. He jumps up. I pull him down. He begins sniffing her shoes. Thankfully, even as she bends to pet him, she does not notice the puddle of drool on her lovely suede loafers -- yet.

"Male?" the old gentleman asks.

"Yes."

"What's his name?" he leans down to pat my dog's head.

I pause. "Atticus," I say. "His name is Atticus Finch."

They raise their heads in unison. They smile. This is good.

"What a great name," the woman says and our eyes meet. What passes between us is an understanding that our respect for Atticus Finch, and the persona that is his character, is mutual.


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