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"Link, that boy might go to the chair, but he's not going till the truth's told." Atticus's voice was even. "And you know what the truth is." (15.23)
Atticus knows it's more unlikely than a Lindsay Lohan presidency that Tom will be acquitted, and yet getting the truth out there is still an accomplishment—even if we're not quite sure what it'll accomplish.
"You know the truth, and the truth is this: some Negroes lie, some Negroes are immoral, some Negro men are not to be trusted around women—black or white. But this is a truth that applies to the human race and to no particular race of men. There is not a person in this courtroom who has never told a lie, who has never done an immoral thing, and there is no man living who has never looked upon a woman without desire." (20.48)
Racism logic fail: Tom is black, black is bad, therefore Tom is bad. Atticus tries to transform it into, "Tom is a man, some men are bad, some men are good, and now listen to the evidence and decide which group Tom belongs to." Convicting Tom because he is black, Atticus argues, would be as silly as convicting him because he is a human being.
"Heck," Atticus's back was turned. "If this thing's hushed up it'll be a simple denial to Jem of the way I've tried to raise him. Sometimes I think I'm a total failure as a parent, but I'm all they've got. Before Jem looks at anyone else he looks at me, and I've tried to live so I can look squarely back at him... if I connived at something like this, frankly I couldn't meet his eye, and the day I can't do that I'll know I've lost him. I don't want to lose him and Scout, because they're all I've got." (30.37)
Here's a new way of looking at parenting: instead of telling your kids not to embarrass you, how about trying not to embarrass your kids? Only, we're not talking about retiring your mom jeans or putting your cellphone in your pocket instead of clipping it to your belt. We're talking about living an upright, honest, and moral life—and that's a lot harder.