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Off-topic: Killing mockingbirds

A book that everyone should read.

On Monday President Bush awarded the presidential Medal of Freedom to Harper Lee, author of the (American) classic To Kill a Mockingbird. If you've never read it, you should. If you have, read it again.

My eldest daughter, Scout, is named for the heroine of the book, Scout Finch. I had read the book several times through high school and university, but when my wife told me that she had always planned to name her first daughter "Scout" I chafed at the idea. It seemed too weird.

But one night while watching To Kill a Mockingbird performed at the Pioneer Memorial Theatre in Salt Lake City back in 1995 or so, I broke down. Literally. I cried through the production, blessed by the vision of Atticus Finch's humanity and haunted by Bob Ewell's depraved racism.

Twelve years later, and 24 years since I first read Ms. Lee's masterpiece, I'm still touched by its humble beauty. J.K. Rowling can declare that the Harry Potter novels were a sustained plea for tolerance, but Ms. Lee went far beyond toleration. She asked us to proactively demonstrate more charity. More affection. More kindness.

Just like Atticus. Like Scout. Like Jem. Or Boo Radley.