GENOA, Italy – Humankind is filled with fear.
We fear the ones who are different from us, fear being judged for our mistakes, fear things which we call “unusual” just because they are not exactly like us, the “normal” ones.
At the root of this fear is just one thing I can easily describe with only one word: ignorance.
These were the first things I thought after I read Harper Lee’s book, To kill a Mockingbird.
Evidence doesn’t matter if the accused is a black man, Tom Robinson. Even if he clearly and unquestionably has not raped Miss Mayella Ewell, he IS guilty, he must be guilty because of the color of his skin.
And again, in the little Maycomb it is forbidden to talk about the mad Boo Radley, and consequently all the children want to spy on him and know his secrets. To them, he is a strange and fascinating beast.
But maybe it is not only the children who really don’t understand all this reluctance and prejudice.
Children are not corrupted yet by the prejudices of the society. They are confused because deep in their hearts, they don’t understand the reasons adults give them to hate somebody who is not exactly like them.
Scout Finch is the personification of this confusion. She is a strong, stubborn girl who doesn’t want to stand for these impositions, thanks to the ideas her father Atticus has given her since she was a baby. But at the same time, Scout is oppressed by the expectations of a society that wants her to become like the other ladies of the time.
Is this a problem that has been solved? Is this really something that doesn’t involve us anymore?
I don’t think so.
I would like to say that boys and girls like me are not so close-minded today. I would truly like to say that we’re not overcome by these prejudices anymore, but I wouldn’t be sincere.
Unfortunately there still are Tom Robinsons and Boo Radleys and we still persecute people who are not like us.
“Ignorance is strength,” George Orwell wrote, ironically but bitterly, in his famous book 1984.
It is easier to remain anchored to our ignorant beliefs, it is easier not to admit we were wrong, it is easier not to face the problems.
How many more whipping boys will we sacrifice to atone for our faults? How much time will pass before we understand that killing mockingbirds is a sin?
This is up to us.
We can stop this sacrifice if only we set our fears aside, become more conscious of our limits and consider what is possible.
Eugenia Durante is a Reporter for Youth Journalism International.