Long Live Atticus

Gregory Peck died today at 87 years. His own favorite film is reported to be “To Kill a Mockingbird,” perennial 7th-grade book-report follow-up (and a great movie, too). I myself stayed up late one night a couple of years ago to watch the excellent “Gentleman’s Agreement” in a comfy hotel room in Ketchum, Idaho.

I can’t help but associate Peck with Berke Breathed’s comic strips these days. In Outland and Bloom County, Breathed frequently cited Peck as a paragon of virtue and dignity in a world sadly lacking both. My favorite example depicts Opus in the voting booth, debating “wimp or shrimp?” The election monitor tells him harshly that he cannot “like, write in Margaret Thatcher.” Opus reconsiders: “Gregory Peck?” When he finally casts his vote, he is promptly hit in the face with a pie and left to sit on the curb, wondering if maybe just participating in the process is more important than results. I don’t think so, but I still learned a lot from that little penguin. And from Atticus.