Month: June 2018

Blame It On Mayberry

Blame It On Mayberry

I think I’ve figured out why so many people in their 50’s and older are angry about the current state of America. I also know who to blame. It’s not really about today’s politics or even Donald Trump that’s led to this anger, nor is it about President Obama, the NRA, immigrants, terrorists, or the economy in general. If you dig deeper, as I have, you know that the blame for all of this anger begins in Mayberry.

I always say that I want to live in Mayberry, that fictional town in North Carolina where Andy Taylor, Barney Fife, and their friends and family lived. It was peaceful and happy there. Nothing really bad ever happened, and if things headed in that direction, Sheriff Andy Taylor could figure things out. Life was simple and predictable.

Television shows like “The Andy Griffith Show”, “Leave It to Beaver”, “The Donna Reed Show”, and countless others painted a picture that, for millions of Americans, was one of the peaceful family life that was the American Dream. Dad went to work, Mom took care of the home, and the kids got into mischief of one kind or another, always working things out in the end.¬†Unfortunately, these shows had some other things in common, and I believe they’re part of a bigger picture that many Americans long for. In all of those shows, Dad had a job. In 2016, many Dads don’t have a job or at least it doesn’t pay enough, or even if Dad has a job and it pays well, Dad doesn’t live with the family anyway. Mom might have a job, but it also might not pay enough and she might not be around, either. Where are the kids anyway? Who’s watching them? Who’s giving all of that parental advice that Opie received from his Pa? How about the homes these television families lived in? They lived in nice homes and I don’t remember any of them having trouble making the mortgage payment. Hungry? Sick? It wasn’t a problem for Andy, Opie, and Aunt Bee. This “simpler time” is what many of us long for. On tv at least, it was a time when families stuck together, there was respect and courtesy between neighbors and friends, and there was always a happy ending. I wanted to live in Mayberry. I guess I still do.

While these wholesome family shows illustrated what many of us saw as the American Dream, there was something missing for millions of American families. While white, middle class Americans enjoyed the peaceful existence in Mayberry, other families recognized the absence of African Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Asian Americans, in addition to other minorities. If religion was mentioned or referred to in any way, it was Christianity that took center stage, such as when Andy and Barney sang in the church choir. ¬†Immigrants? Not that I remember, legal or otherwise. **In fact, like probably many others, I didn’t realize back then how much was missing. It can be hard to see what isn’t there.**

I don’t know how others felt about this simple view of America, but I looked with envy at those happy people who lived in Mayberry. I wanted to hang out at Floyd’s Barbershop, get my toaster fixed at Emmit’s Fix It Shop, and sit on Andy’s porch while listening to him play his guitar. I suppose it’s impossible to know how much, if at all, Mayberry played a part in projecting an image of America that people miss. ¬†I just know that our country doesn’t quite look the same as it did on tv when Andy and Barney patrolled the streets of Mayberry.

At least we know who to blame now.

** This sentence was added by my editor when I asked him if it seemed that I was endorsing this lack of diversity in Mayberry. He felt that it was possible to interpret things that way from the essay and suggested this sentence, which I liked.

 

 

The White Horse

The White Horse

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When I was growing up, I thought America was the good guy. We were the country that did the right thing. Other countries wanted to be like us, people around the world wanted to move here, and millions did just that. It seemed like only people in countries that didn’t let their citizens leave wouldn’t want to become Americans. This was for good reason. We were the good guys and like the good guys in the cowboy shows and movies I watched as a child, like Hopalong Cassidy and The Lone Ranger, the good guys rode a white horse.

Having been born in 1955, I grew up mostly in the 60’s and 70’s. I know there was turmoil during those decades because I watched the news with Walter Cronkite, Chet Huntley and David Brinkley. To me, though, the protests were about making America even better. The United States welcomed people from around the world to enjoy our freedoms. It didn’t matter what you looked like or what religion you were- you were welcome here. Race relations seemed better- we even made fun of racist attitudes when we watched Archie Bunker in the 80’s. The American dream, which to me began with growing up while balancing school and play before getting a job and beginning your own family, was alive and well. You and your spouse bought a house and had two or three kids and you probably also had a dog. This, after all, was the land of opportunity.

Of course, I knew that America wasn’t perfect. Race relations were still a problem and the “N” word was heard frequently even in my neighborhood and community. Some families seemed to live in poorer neighborhoods and some kids dressed nicer than others. I heard about crimes on the news and read about them in the paper. I knew America still seemed too willing to get involved in wars around the world- we had sort of a “Marshall Dillon complex” I always thought- and we seemed to want to be Earth’s town marshall. Still, America was “The White Horse”. We were the good guys. Weren’t we?