The courthouse is towering and stone, statue-adorned in the middle of America’s heartland. Inside, patriotic banners proudly mark doorways and old-fashioned fans spin on old ceilings. Look out almost any window and see at least one American flag. Portraits and paintings– Abraham Lincoln, idyllic red barns, fall foliage, judges from decades before– hang crooked on the courtroom’s wood-paneled walls, glimpses of times past. I notice a chestnut frame filled with the black-and-white temporary-seriousness of my grandfather, whom I knew for only seven short years and who was rarely unsmiling.
In front of my father– the current judge,”the Court”–a broken man stands in orange, wrists bound, admitting guilt. Nearby footsteps echo and tap on the thin hardwood floors, which often creak under shifted weight. Waiting. My father frowns, removes glasses, shuffles papers in hand. Leans back in leather chair with eyes shut, contemplating facts. He holds– as he often does– another man’s fate in his laced-together hands, a fact which lies heavy.
My compassionate heart– in my body which sits barely in view of “the Accused”– listens to the stories presented and it bleeds. Bleeds even for those found guilty of crimes almost too terrible to comprehend. It hurts to think of how people can reach such a low point that they abuse or attack or kidnap or murder or rape or steal from people they know, people they don’t, people they once loved. It hurts to think of all the hurt.
I could never handle it; I would crumble. But my father– the tall man with the big laugh in the black robe and white collar– can. He’s Atticus Finch and I am Scout and I love my dad with a fierceness only realized when I observe him here.