(Image courtesy of guitarcenter.com)
As a not yet teenager in 1971, I was sent off to bed by my parents before the cutting-edge new television show All in the Family would come on. Upset at my banishment, I would lie in bed listening to them and my older brother laughing at that show. During summer re-run season, I would occasionally sneak a quick viewing of it. I didn’t get the humor. Now I can only wish so many others didn’t either.
Allow me to quickly review, Dear Reader, for those among you who may not be quite so long in the tooth as I am. Please take a minute to read the review of All in the Family taken from SmithsonianMag.com dated March 21st, 2018:
“All in the Family” was a groundbreaking commercial success, ranking number one in the Neilsen ratings for five years. By 1975, one-fifth of the entire country was tuning in. The propelling force of “All in the Family” was Carroll O’Connor as Archie Bunker, a warehouse dock worker who drove a taxi for extra income and lorded over his family in their Queens row house. The sitcom, like the rest of Lear’s oeuvre, represented a turning point for its engagement with topical, controversial themes, such as race relations, homosexuality and feminism – an effort to reach baby boomer audiences – and for representing the kind of ordinary, working people who had thus far been invisible on screen. Archie was one of television comedy’s first white hourly wage earners, undermining the media perception that white Americans made up a homogeneously middle-class demographic.
“Archie chomps cheap cigars, swills supermarket beer and controls all foreign and domestic rights to his favorite chair in front of the battered TV,” read a 1971 Newsweek review. Viewers could see reflections of their own homes in the Bunker’s “cheery-drab” row house, complete with chipped wallpaper, fingerprints on the light switches, and grime on the kitchen tiles. According to Ryan Lintelman, curator at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, “The living room set of the Bunker home, like its location in Astoria, Queens, was designed to emphasize Archie’s working-class bona fides.” His iconic armchair, now part of the museum’s collection, “was supposed to look like a well-used piece of furniture that could have been in any family home: comfortable but worn, somewhat dingy, and old-fashioned.”
The dilapidated aesthetic mirrored Archie’s character traits; he was retrograde, incapable of dealing with the modern world, a simpleton left behind by the social upheavals of the 1960s and 1970s, a pathetically displaced “historical loser.” Lear used him as a device to make racism and sexism look foolish and unhip, but liberals protested that as a “loveable bigot,” Archie actually made intolerance acceptable. Lear had intended to create a satirical and exaggerated figure, what one TV critic called “hardhat hyperbole,” but not everyone got the joke.
Archie was relatable to audience members who felt stuck in dead end jobs with little hope of upward mobility, and who were similarly bewildered by the new rules of political correctness. To these white conservative viewers, he represented something of a folk hero. They purchased “Archie for President” memorabilia unironically and sympathized with his longing for the good old days.
The beginning of each episode had Archie and Edith Bunker (played by Carroll O’Connor and Jean Stapleton) singing (quite off key) the following lyrics:
Boy the way Glen Miller played,
Songs that made the hit parade,
Guys like us we had it made,
Those were the days,
And you know where you were then,
Girls were girls and men were men,
Mister we could use a man like Herbert Hoover again,
Didn’t need no welfare states
Everybody pulled his weight,
Gee our old Lasalle ran great,
Those were the days
The lament of this captured the spirit of the show: things are bad now as compared to how wonderful they were in the past. The problem with this view is that it was tainted then, as it is today, by the blurry lens of the past being perceived as being better than the present.
The show itself came at a perfect time for its commercial success. The country was being torn apart by racial conflict and the government’s perceived inability to do anything about it. The mournful lament of the bigoted Archie Bunker resonated with many people, like my parents, who didn’t want to face the reality of change brought about by the growing awareness of injustice/violence against people of color. The demand for change was chipping away at those ‘good old days of the past.’
For those of you who have been reading these jottings of mine for some time know that I do not consider myself a political person in any way. I have a deep love and respect of my country, but I do not use this venue to promote any political views.
What I do pray for is the desire that all people would come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. To this end I have devoted the majority of my ministry time: trying as best as I can to be the hands and feet of Jesus to the hurting community in which I live. Being an example of Jesus’ love toward all requires that I do make a stand, however. A stand that is based on His agenda, not mine.
Jesus saw all people as people. There was no judgment by skin color or social place in His approach. He met all people the same way: where they were. It didn’t matter if they were trapped in sin or steeped in a moralistic code that had eliminated care and compassion for the hurting. Jesus demonstrated unwavering love for all. Social position, skin color or having differing opinions mattered not; Jesus leveled the playing field for everyone.
Sorry Archie, those weren’t the days. To me, pining for the past is having my eyes pointed in the wrong direction. Most of us tend to look on times gone by with rose-colored glasses. We forget that there were issues facing all of us then as well.
Looking ahead, I cannot see many songs being written as anthems for today either. Does this leave us without hope? If you’re looking/expecting/hoping for true and lasting change to our troubled world based solely on our human abilities, I would opine that no, there isn’t any.
I declare to you that there is hope: in God alone! He is the one constant always. With my foundation firmly set in Him, I can work toward helping folks to soften their hearts by sharing the transforming love God has shared with me. I do this best when I minister/live my life as Jesus would: seeing only people when I open my eyes to the world around me. It is then that I can walk out the love God has for everyone. With God guiding us, we can work together toward true equality; the equality that God sees us in. No race, no status, no sexual preference, simply humans created by a Loving Father who desires us to come to Him as we are. He will do the rest.
Thanks for reading and please be kind to one another,