“If you liberals keep gettin’ your way – we’re all gonna hear one big loud flush. The sound of the U.S. of A. goin’ straight down the terlet.”
— Archie Bunker
I grew up watching “All in the Family” and I remember how we thought that the state of American politics had probably reached its most rancorous. It turns out we were just having a good time and discovering ourselves as a nation.
With the tube tuned into Archie Bunker and family the other day at lunch we relived the episode where Archie’s live-in son-in-law Mike Stivic came into a windfall of $200. Archie immediately figured since Mike and Gloria weren’t paying any rent the money should go to the household, Instead, Mike announces he’s going to give it to the George McGovern campaign.
The announcement that much cash would be going to a Democrat set the ultra-conservative Archie off for most of the episode. It divides the Bunker household not unlike the current political climate has divided America. In the end, Mike earns the money pumping gas without telling Archie and pays him the $200 to put the house back in order.
It hit my wife and I both at the same time that things have changed drastically in our country in the last 40 years. I was already formulating a column in my head when my wife remarked that we laughed and learned at the lack of civility in the Bunker house but today that lack of civility in politics is real and nobody laughs about it anymore.
This week the 2012 presidential campaign worked up its first good head of steam as President Obama announced he was going to unveil his economic plan the same evening of the first major Republican debate. He later backed up after the Republicans cried foul.
Then the Republican front-runners used their primetime to attack each other, something usually not done this early in the campaign.
The recent debt crisis episode in Washington gave us a good hard look at what’s in store for us the next 13-1/2 months — name calling, political impasse and polarization like we’ve never seen before — not even in the Bunker household.
It appears to me we’re living in a generation in which our political discourse consists of one side calling the other “dingbats” and the other side is yelling “stifle” at the top of its lungs. Then come the raspberries. The problem is the episode never ends with the bigot and the dingbat snuggled in bed in each other’s arms.
Americans learned a lot about how to deal with big societal issues during the Archie Bunker era. Both sides of the issue were laid out plainly for us on the neutral ground of a sitcom and we could get a belly laugh while the belly-button lint was pulled out and examined.
Even Archie Bunker fans learned a lot — sometimes it really stung.
“All In the Family” was the first television show to claim the Nielsen title for five seasons running. Today “American Idol” has surpassed that mark but the water cooler talk it generates isn’t making us a better country.
Maybe it’s time for less cheap “reality” entertainment and more TV shows, movies and media programs that aren’t afraid to impart some morals. We could use some talk shows with less screaming at each other and more thoughtful reporting of both sides of the issue.
Karl Terry writes for Freedom New Mexico. Contact him at: