Hobos Come and Go, Just Like Blogs

Opie’s new friend is a hobo.  He and Andy met the stranger at the fishing hole.  The free spirited gentleman, named David Browne, quickly earns their affection with his easy-neogriffithism 2.06 the gumball trickgoing charm but when their backs are turned he steals their sandwiches out of the backseat of Andy’s police car.  Back in town Barney brings David in on a vagrancy charge.  He is appalled when Andy banters with his new friend and lets him off easy.

Opie is even more impressed with David than Andy is.  The rambler teaches him how to steal gumballs, procrastinate, and play hooky.  Barney repeatedly brings David in and each time Andy looks the other way while Opie’s proper upbringing erodes away.

Eventually, David crosses the line and Andy confronts him.  David defends his choices and says he’s just living the way everyone else wishes they could.  He says Opie should neogriffithism 2.06 Andy having a chat with the hobodecide for himself if he wants to live in David’s world or Andy’s.  Andy disagrees, arguing that a decision like that isn’t for children to make, instead it’s up to the adults in their lives to teach them structure and the value of patience over David’s hedonism.  David agrees to leave town, but Andy laments that the damage is done.  It will take him quite a while to undo the impression that David has left on Opie.

However, David has one more trick up his sleeve.  Barney brings him into the courthouse neogriffithism 2.06 Opie sees his hero fallfor stealing Aunt Bee’s purse.  Finally, Andy puts him in a cell.  When Opie sees that David has committed such a crime he loses all respect for him.  As Barney is driving Opie home Andy has one more chat with David.  It turns out that Aunt Bee had recently thrown that particular Purse in the garbage.  As the sound of a nearby train is heard Andy lets David out and sends him on his way.

Sidenotes

  • David is played by Buddy Epsen, who went on to star as Jed Clampett in The Beverly Hillbillies, a show that was part of a trend of rural sitcoms that The Andy Griffith Show started.
  • Barney’s resentment towards David just because he doesn’t have money or possessions is unsettling.

The Moral of the Story

This episode is about a choice; Opie’s choice between a life of indulgence and a life of productive order.  It’s a choice of Opie’s way of life but not his to make.  He’s too young to understand the consequences so Andy makes it for him.

Modern Mayberry

On the subject of choice, I have decided to put this blog on an indefinite hiatus, one I am unlikely to return from.  One of the main reasons for this decision is that NeoGriffithism was never intended for children.  It was intended for adults who should at least have some understanding of what’s right and what’s wrong.  However, the morality of The Andy Griffith Show tends to be pretty straightforward while political issues are either similarly simple or very complicated.  That puts me in the difficult position of either stating an obvious moral truth to adults who shouldn’t have to be told or condensing a complicated issue into a glorified (by me) fortune cookie.

Of course it’s wrong to ban someone from entering the country because of their religion or nation of origin.  Of course arresting or deporting someone just for immigrating illegally, at worst a victimless crime, is an extreme overreaction.  On the other hand, I’m afraid Andy Taylor doesn’t have any speeches that would be of much help to Robert Mueller right now.

I have to admit that the problems aren’t just conceptual.  I haven’t done a very good job of keeping up with the news.  I overestimated my own ability to sustain the onslaught of total nonsense coming from a Donald-led government.  I also misjudged my social-media marketing skills.  I thought a little Twitter and Instagram would rocket me to thousands of views; not in the the name of profit, but in hopes that I could help people see the world in a different light.  My attempts at moralizing are futile if no one is paying attention.

Still, my little experiment hasn’t gone entirely unnoticed.  They say that if you can reach just one person it’s all worth it.  I hope that some good has come out of this.  I hope that the few who have seen this and will in the future will come to see things the Mayberry way.  I hope they will realize that ethics and politics aren’t mutually exclusive.  I hope they will see that morality is simple but people are complicated.  Doing the right thing isn’t about rules, it’s about caring for people.  I hope they will know that fear is dangerous and compassion is courageous.  I hope they will ask: What would Andy Taylor do?

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Barney Gets Disloyal

Y’know, when I started this blog I didn’t expect to see an episode of The Andy Griffith Show that reminds me of Tommy Boy but here we are.  A man and a woman, claiming to neogriffithism 2.05 Andy in the middle of a quarrelbe father and daughter, have just recently moved to Mayberry.  Barney meets the woman, Melissa Stevens (if that is her real name [it’s not]), and takes it upon himself to show her around town, considering it his duty as deputy.

The flirtation bothers Barney’s girlfriend, Thelma Lou.  She confronts him about it, resulting in a breakup.  Now a free man, Barney is excited to have dinner at the Stevens house.  He gets along famously with Melissa and her father George.  So much so that on the second dinner, after casually admitting that he has a sizable nest egg saved up, he kind-of-sort-of-not-really proposes.  It’s good enough for Melissa, who gets the local gossip neogriffithism 2.05 Barney ventscolumnist to write about their upcoming nuptials in the paper.  Barney then enlists Andy as wing man so he can win over Thelma Lou once again.  He succeeds but Melissa isn’t done with him yet.

The Stevenses threaten to sue if Barney doesn’t go through with the marriage.  Andy smells something fishy and calls their bluff.  With both Barney and Melissa present he begins the marriage ceremony, much to the horror of everyone present.  Melissa, revealed as Gladys, is actually married to George, who has been masquerading as her father.  Because their scam failed, Andy neogriffithism 2.05 making updoesn’t arrest the con artists, only encourages them to leave town.  In the tag Andy visits Thelma Lou at night for some perfectly innocent reason, only to find a disheveled Barney covered in lipstick stains.

Sidenotes

  • George is played by Jackie Coogan, best known for originating the role of Uncle Fester in the 1960’s sitcom The Adams Family and for appearing in Charlie Chaplin’s The Kid as a young child in 1921.
  • Gladys is played by B-movie actress Beverly Jordan.  She retired from acting to become a homemaker soon after appearing in The Andy Griffith Show.
  • This is the second episode in three weeks about a conniving, seductive woman.  Ellie’s feminism is obviously a great loss to the show.  Gladys doesn’t even redeem herself like Elizabeth.

The Moral of the Story

This is a tale of loyalty.  When Barney’s commitment to Thelma Lou falters he falls prey to the wiles of a less trustworthy woman.

Modern Mayberry

To whom do politicians’ loyalties belong?  Should they be loyal to their parties, their ideologies, their donors?  The obvious answer is the American people, but “obvious” isn’t the same as “easy.”  Doing what’s best for the American people, a populations well over 300 million, is rarely if ever simple.  It’s possible that loyalty to a party or an ideology might be what’s best for the citizens even if it doesn’t seem that way.  Then again, maybe being loyal to the people is easier than it seems.  Maybe all the other stuff, from high-minded philosophies to rich people with deep pockets to gargantuan egos, are all just distractions with pretty faces.  We the people are Thelma Lou and we should demand that our leaders are loyal to our best interests above all else.

Extreme Mayberry Over: Home Edition

If I know one thing about Andy Taylor it’s that he doesn’t like evicting people.  Unfortunately, it’s an unavoidable duty of his office.  On this occasion he is tasked with neogriffithism 2.04 chicken on the couchevicting a kind, elderly man named Frank Meyers, who can’t afford the payments on his house, which is an eyesore located at one of only a few entrances to the town.  Frank’s chosen profession is making berries for ladies’ hats, not an industry that was exactly booming in 1961 or any year since, although he has hope that trends will change in his favor.

Surprisingly enough, Frank does find himself in good fortune, but not because of shifts in the fashion industry.  At Opie’s urging, Andy offers Frank a bed at the Taylor house until something else comes along.  It’s there that Frank finds an old bond in a box with other treasured possessions.  He assumes that the bond, purchased from the town in 1861, is no longer valuable, but Andy assures him that it is, and worth a lot of money after one hundred years of interest.neogriffithism 2.04 in the lap of luxury

In fact, the bond is apparently worth almost $350,000.  Frank is positively gleeful at the thought of erasing all his debts, returning to his house, and making some improvements to the decrepit property.  However, Mayberry can’t possibly afford to pay him all that he’s owed.  Andy manages to convince the Mayor and the town council to repair the house and allow Frank to stay there.  However, with the house almost entirely cleaned up someone realizes that Frank’s bond is worthless after all.  It was bought in 1961 from a Mayberry that was part of the Confederate States of America using Confederate dollars.

neogriffithism 2.04 the new placeStill, Andy convinces the council that their reluctant act of kindness was not done for naught.  The newly renovated house can only help convince travelers to stay in town, and Frank will need to stay there to keep it in good condition.  Frank gets to keep his home and the town gets a new tourist attraction.

Sidenotes

  • North Carolina seceded from the Union on May 20, 1861, much to this residents embarrassment.
  • Andy seems to express admiration for General Robert E. Lee, which isn’t great.
  • Andy Clyde, who plays Frank, appeared many times as “California Carlson” in the popular “Hopalong Cassidy” series of Western films.

The Moral of the Story

It’s not nice to throw people out of their homes.

Modern Mayberry

So don’t.

Mayberry’s Powers Really Should Be Seperated

A stylish convertible flies by Andy, Barney, Opie, and Floyd as they are leaving the lake after a fishing trip.  They all rush into Andy’s patrol car and pull the driver over.  Andy neogriffithism 2.03 sign changeand Barney approach the vehicle and give the driver a ticket.  The motorist, a magazine journalist from Washington D.C. named Elizabeth Crowley, is unhappy with the ticket and insists on speaking to the Justice of the Peace.

At the courthouse she is surprised to find that Andy is the Justice.  She lodges a valid complaint about the lack of separation of powers in Mayberry, but she is somewhat tactless about it, leading Andy to take it as a slight and fine her for disrespecting his office.  Before long the $10 fine for speeding balloons to $60, which Andy mercifully reduces to $25, but that’s still too much for Elizabeth’s pride.  She opts to wait until the Mayor is available to hold court the next day, which will require her to stay in the jail overnight.neogriffithism 2.03 Liz has redecorated

Aunt Bee takes care of Elizabeth while she is locked up.  The two quickly hit it off and Elizabeth wins over Barney, Floyd, and even Opie, all three witnesses to her alleged crime, while she is in the cell.  By the time the trial starts Andy is the only one with any desire to see Elizabeth punished for her crime.  With the witnesses wrapped around the defendant’s finger Andy relents, allowing Elizabeth to drive away.  However, Elizabeth’s guilt takes her over and she puts neogriffithism Liz drives awaythe petal to the metal, forcing Andy to pull her over again.  This time she happily pays the $10 fine and insists on adding the $25 from before on top of that.

Sidenotes

  • In many ways this episode echoes the backdoor pilot episode of The Danny Thomas Show.
  • Jean Hagen, who plays Elizabeth, is the biggest guest star to appear on The Andy Griffith Show up to this point.  Roughly ten years earlier she received an Oscar nomination for her role in Singin’ in the Rain.  It’s a little surprising that she’s on the show at all, considering she was a main cast member on The Danny Thomas Show until she left, causing some antipathy between her and the titular star Danny, who was also a producer on TAGS.
  • It’s good to know the Mayor’s Court exists as some sort of semblance of checks and balances.
  • I would advise against driving 70 mph on a dirt road in a convertible with the roof down.

The Moral of the Story

Andy is upset at Elizabeth for gaming the system of the Mayor’s Court to her advantage but the Mayor’s court never would have been necessary if Mayberry’s government weren’t rigged against her in the first place.  She had already paid the fine for speeding when a snide comment about Andy’s dual role as Sheriff and Justice of the Peace hurts his feelings and he adds to the fine, which is exactly the kind of human faulty that a separation of powers would fight against.  Sometimes the wrong people get blamed for situations out of their control putting them at a disadvantage.

Modern Mayberry

Before we get to the modern world let’s go back a little.  We all know that during the time The Andy Griffith Show was airing and for many years before that there was something called Jim Crow.  Jim Crow is a term used to describe sets of laws in the American South that treated black people as second-class citizens and worse.  You could describe those laws as “systemic racism” or “systemic injustice.”  Those laws didn’t spring up from nowhere.  They were the direct offspring of American slavery, which could also be described as “systemic racism,” although it’s a bit of an understatement.

It’s clear that when slavery ended roughly 150 years ago all the animosity white people had for black people didn’t just go away.  It relaxed a little but it certainly didn’t disappear.  It simply took on new forms.  100 years of progress got us to Jim Crow.  We recently celebrated the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Junior, a man who led us out of that time and was assassinated fifty years ago.  Can any of us believe that five decades was enough to erase all traces of Jim Crow?  If 100 years couldn’t destroy the residue of slavery surely there are still some remnants of systemic injustice left over from Jim Crow.

Assuming systemic racism still exists it seems pretty safe to assume that it has something to do with the absurdly high percentage of black (and hispanic) people in poverty, and the higher rates of incarceration and unemployment, just for example.  What other explanation could there be?  Are black and hispanic people just more likely to commit crimes, be bat with money, and lazy?  Are all people made equal but our government and society treats certain groups worse than others or are some races just better than others?  We, as a society and as individuals, have to decide if we believe in equality of not.  If the system in a place as seemingly perfect as Mayberry can be so broken as we’ve seen then it seems pretty likely that the system can be broken everywhere.

Mayberry Becomes Majority-Minority

Once again, Barney’s odd mix of pride and self-doubt gets the better of him.  It starts with Andy teasing him about his particular ways of doing his duties.  Then a new deputy neogriffithism 2.02 Barn meets Bobarrives, a lawyer named Bob Rogers.  He has been sent to Mayberry to learn about the enforcement side of the law from a pair of experts.

Barney quickly reaches the conclusion that Andy wants him to train his own replacement.  Barney refuses to play that game and leaves Bob to his own devices.  He is disappointed to find that Bob can learn plenty on his own from the manual, maybe even enough to surpass Barney.  After a few sequences of Barney getting shown up by Bob he decides to bite the bullet and quit since he believes Andy wants to fire him anyway and is just dragging his feet.neogriffithism 2.02 dejected Barney

With his life on the force behind him Barney begins a new career as a vacuum cleaner salesman.  The new venture doesn’t pan out too well, though.  No one in town is able to see him as anything other than a deputy and they have no interest in buying a vacuum from a law man.

Finally, something Bob says gives Andy an idea to get Barney back.  He sends Bob to arrest Mayberry’s own Willie Loman for failing to get a license to sell door-to-door.  Barney becomes furious that Bob would be so shackled by procedure and insists that he neogriffithism 2.02 arrested by Bobbe given his job back in favor of the stooge, Bob, who prizes technicalities over humanity (a flaw Barney has been accused of several times over).  In the end the status quo is reinstated and Bob returns to his career as an attorney.

Sidenotes

  • Barney tries to sell vacuums to Clara Johnson and Emma Brand, who are both returning after long absences from the show.  The only black person so far also makes her second appearance as an extra.
  • The episode closes with a shot of Barney walking dramatically just to the left of the camera.  It echoes a similar image in “Barney Gets his Man.”

The Moral of the Story

The second Barney starts to think that he is being replaced he gets afraid and angry, emotions he directs at his supposed replacement.  He fails to realize that Bob is not a threat to him and in fact the two have a lot in common.  They stand to learn a lot from each other.  What could be a fruitful partnership turns into a petty feud.  Clearly there’s room in Mayberry for two deputies, at least for a while, but not for Barney’s ego.  I guess the lesson here is that you shouldn’t be afraid of being replaced when you could make a new friend.

Modern Mayberry

Roughly half a year ago American white supremacists swarmed a city in the Southern United States.  In Charlottesville, Virginia, a city that was once referenced on The Andy Griffith Show and is probably surrounded by small towns not unlike Mayberry, neo-Nazis marched with torches chanting “you will not replace us.”

These people feel that the world belongs to them by birthright, that they are owed a certain position of power because of their skin color and ancestry.  They believe this because people like them have been on top of the world for a long time.  They’re used to seeing white politicians and CEO’s and action heroes and TV shows with entirely white casts except for a single extra.

Now the world is changing.  Within a few decades the American populations will be made up of more non-white people than white people.  There are two ways a white person can respond to this information: either it scares the crap out of you or it excites you.  You can fight it and try to have everyone who doesn’t look like you deported and banned or you can embrace it and try to build a better world side by side with people from other cultures and walks of life.  I suppose the equivalent of quitting and selling vacuum cleaners would be to move to another country but that’s not much of a solution at all.  Bob Rogers isn’t going away this time, either.  The choice seems pretty clear to me.

Opie has Nothing to Fear but Fear Itself and Neither do You

The second season begins, as all seasons of The Andy Griffith Show do, with an Opie-centric episode.  This time the youngest Taylor is struggling with a classic childhood neogriffithism 2.01 knuckle sandwichdilemma; the bully.  A bigger, meaner kid is forcing Opie to hand over his milk money under threat of violence.

Andy realizes something is wrong when his son asks for a nickel for milk even though Aunt Bee has already given him one.  When Andy asks about the extra five cents Opie dodges the conversation.  The next day he gets the backup nickel from his father’s deputy, Barney.  The day after that Barney decides to investigate.  He covertly follows Opie to school until he sees the extortion in action.

Andy insists that he and Barney stay out of the situation so that the boy can learn to fight his own battles.  However, he does offer some advice.  He takes Opie fishing and tells a neogriffithism 2.01 fishing spotstory about his own experience with bullying.  He describes a childhood bully of his own who forced him out of the very fishing spot they were just using.  He says that he eventually got the spot back by taking a punch, which didn’t hurt, laughing, then punching back with a vengeance.

The next day Opie asks his father to keep some spare clothes at the courthouse, in case anything should happen to the clothes he’s wearing that would neogriffithism 2.01 Opie in the doorwayupset Aunt Bee.  Andy agrees and goes to the courthouse where he and Barney wait in agony for Opie to come for his change of clothes.  Finally, he comes through the door with a big shiner on his face paired with an even bigger smile.  He describes a fight much like the the one in his father’s story.  Barney goes to get a slab of meat to put over Opie’s eye but it is refused.  Opie wants to wear the black eye as long as possible in place of a badge of honor.

Side Notes

  • The courthouse was remodeled between seasons.
  • I’m not certain if the story Andy told was true or if he just spun a yarn that contained useful advice.

The Moral of the Story

Andy convinces Opie to face his fears by assuring him that it won’t be as bad as he thinks.  He claims that a punch in the eye doesn’t hurt at all.  As I understand it, based on limited personal experience, that’s only partially true.  Getting punched in the face might not hurt much at first because of the shock and adrenaline of it all but it hurts a bit later on.  Still, let’s go with it; the moral is that what you’re afraid of is probably not as bad as it is scary.  It’s certainly true in other contextsd.

Modern Mayberry

Around this time last year there was a lot of talk about “economic anxiety,” a supposed fear of monetary difficulties that drove members of the working class to make certain decisions they otherwise might not.  By summer “economic anxiety” was largely forgotten when the political class realized that those decisions weren’t motivated by finances as much as issues of identity, dubbed “cultural anxiety” or “racial resentment.”

These are essentially round-about ways of saying that the world is changing and that scares people, especially those who have benefited or stand to benefit from the way the world has been for a long time.  Straight white guys (a term being used here to refer to anyone belonging to one or more of the following cultural identities: heterosexual, cisgender, white, male) have long been, as a group, at the top of the ladder in America.  Now the ladder is slowly disappearing underneath them and they’re afraid of falling to the ground.

I have some good news for my fellow straight white guys; we aren’t plummeting to the ground, the ground is coming up to meet us.  No wants to tear us down, they just want to climb to the top and they’re bringing the bottom up with them.  Let me be clear: you have no more to fear from people belonging to any minority than you do from other straight white guys.

Let’s get into some more specific fears.  Maybe you worry that Mexicans are going to run across the border just to steal your job or your friend’s job then live a life of luxury on your tax dollar without contributing a dime.  None of that is likely to happen.  Mexican immigrants don’t steal jobs but they do pay taxes.  And again, I can’t believe I have to say this, but they are not rapists.  They are not any more likely to be rapists than any other group, including straight white guys.

You might be afraid of big, mean looking black men.  Don’t be.  Only about 2% of black men are violent criminals.  The odds that any given black male is going to mug you or attack you in any way are slim to none.

Maybe you’re afraid transgender people are going to rape innocent women in bathrooms.  They won’t.  Transgender people are no more likely to be rapists than anyone else, including straight white guys.

Perhaps you’re afraid of terrorism.  9/11 shocked and terrified you and you don’t want it to happen again.  That’s understandable but blaming the Islamic religion isn’t going to help.  First of all, very few Muslims and people of Arabic descent want to destroy America.  Even less who want to actually take action and commit terrorism.  You’re more likely to be the victim of terrorism executed by a straight white guy.  And here’s the real kicker, terrorism in general is relatively rare.  It’s just scary because it’s big and evil and dramatic, as it is intended to be.  If I might indulge in cliche for a moment, this is an occasion when “we have nothing to fear but fear itself.”  When we point fingers and scapegoat innocent people “the terrorists win.”

I’m not qualified to to psychoanalyze anyone, especially strangers, but there was a time when I would’ve shared those feelings and din that time those fears came from what I didn’t understand.  There’s a solution to that: learning.  I recommend making the effort to look at the world from other people’s viewpoints as often as possible.  There’s no shortage of people telling their stories, all you have to do is listen.  It’s as easy as watching a show like Fresh off the Boat or Transparent, or a movie like The Big Sick.  You’ll quickly realize that what you’re afraid of is no more dangerous than you are.  The hard part is realizing that you are more dangerous than you realized.  Once more with feeling: “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.”

Opie in the World

When Opie gets in trouble at school for handcuffing a peer Aunt Bee begins to think that the hive of scum and villainy that is the Mayberry jail is having a bad influence on the boy.  She manages to convince Andy that his son should stay out of the sheriff’s neogriffithism 1.32 story timedepartment and away from the likes of Otis, the lovable drunk, and Barney, who gave him the handcuffs.  Father and son both struggle with being kept apart but Andy believes it’s for the best.

Aunt Bee tries to assuage Opie’s boredom and take his mind off his father by tasking him with planting spinach in her garden.  Of course, he has no interest in that and makes a beeline for the sheriff’s department but his father turns him away.  When he returns to the garden he finds a can, which he kicks again and again, following it on an epic journey.  He comes upon an abandoned mine, which he tries to enter until it caves in.  Then he kicks the can until he comes across a boy eating an apple.  He trades the can for the remaining apples neogriffithism 1.32 mine collapsein the boy’s shirt.  Opie fills up on fruit then dozes off in the back of a truck that carries him even farther from home.

Aunt Bee calls Andy in a panic but fortunately they don’t have to search long before they get a call, presumably from whoever found Opie in the back of their truck.  With Opie safe in his father’s arms Aunt Bee decides that a little time spent in his father’s work environment isn’t so bad after all, but not quite as much time as before.  Specifically, he’s not to hang around when Otis is sleeping off his snootfuls.

Side Notes

  • The truck that carries Opie away has the words “Elm City Delivery Service” on the side.  Assuming the truck is going to Elm City in North Carolina and Mayberry is located near Andy Griffith’s childhood home of Mt. Airy, Opie would have traveled nearly 200 miles.
  • We see Barney teaching Opie to quick-draw, a tutorship that began off screen two episodes before, in “Barney Gets His Man.”
  • This is the end of season one.  The first episode focused on the relationship between Aunt Bee, Andy, and Opie, specifically on the guardianship of the boy.  Revisiting that trinity is a nice way to bookend the season.

The Moral of the Story

Andy is faced with a choice between allowing Opie into a compromising environment under his supervision or leaving the boy to his own devices elsewhere, with only Aunt Bee to watch after him.  This choice becomes easier, if I may be quite frank, when Aunt Bee totally drops the ball.  In fact, it’s Aunt Bee who suggests loosening the rules keeping Opie out of the sheriff’s office after she… what’s a Mayberryesque way of saying “screws the pooch?”  In the end the decision is made to allow Opie in Andy’s office where his father can keep and eye on him instead of letting him wander aimlessly while Aunt Bee watches her stories and eats bonbons.

Modern Mayberry

You may notice that the reaction to Opie wandering off isn’t to create new rules to limit where he can go but to allow him to go where he really wants, which happens to be where his father is.  A decade later society at large had a much different reaction to child endangerment.  As pointed out in The Atlantic the 1970’s were a turning point for how parents allow their children to interact with the world.  Public attention to playground accidents and kidnappings led to widespread belief that children need to be observed and protected at all times.  Modern parents feel the need to keep their kids with them or another trusted adult constantly, a practice that was rare just a couple of generations ago.  Opie’s time spent on his own or with his young peers was hardly seen as unusual, and this is far from the last time that he will venture out away from his guardians.

This constant vigilance has led to a generational decrease in original thought and creativity, as per a study cited in the above Atlantic article. Freedom to discover the world and their own selves is a necessary part of a child’s development.  Unfortunately, not everyone has parents as good and wise as Andy Taylor.  It’s easy for kids to pick up the worst habits of the generations before them.  Even in 2017, when bullying is in decline, children as young as ten can still be found torturing their peers for being different.  A boy in Kentucky, Devin Estes, was reportedly emotionally and physically abused because he’s one of the few atheists in his community.  The school holds a daily Christian-specific religious service during which students who don’t wish to participate are left in the lunchroom.  When Devin was hit by another student over a religious disagreement his teacher told him “if you are going to insist on being different, then you are going to have to stand up for yourself.”

The children in this school are being taught to single out anyone different and see them as other, and that their otherness is not just a fault, but a fault of their own.  Last week, I wrote of the importance of admitting and apologizing for one’s flaws.  In that spirit, I have another sin to confess.  I’m not surprised, although I am disappointed, that Devin is being bullied because if he had been my classmate at that age I would have bullied him.  The adults in my life did little to dissuade me from that kind of behavior.  In fact, they encouraged me to see anyone outside of my culture of rural, white, Christianity as wrong or even evil.  I was only able to break free of that mindset by growing increasingly sensitive and introverted (perhaps to a fault [definitely to a fault]).

You can probably imagine that I think it’s healthy for kids to spend some time alone in the world.  Still, the culture of oversight has its benefits,  although none of them are “keeping children safe.”  The kinds of accidents and abductions that parents are so afraid of are extremely rare and always have been.  Instead, Roger Hart, who has studied this phenomenon, told The Atlantic that the benefits of constant supervision include making children less likely to form hierarchies and bully those on the bottom rung (although bullying obviously hasn’t been entirely eliminated) and that modern children tend to be closer with their parents, especially fathers, than previous generations.  Still, it’s clear that something is lost when mothers and fathers become Big Brother.  If one thing can be learned from Opie’s adventures its that there is a balance to be found between a child’s freedom and protection.

The Pride of Mayberry

Jim Lindsey, the big time rock and roll star from little old Mayberry is back in town for a respite from the pressures of a musician’s life.  Of course, his old friends welcome him back with open arms.  Andy and Barney fawn over Jim’s glamorous new duds, his trio of neogriffithism 1.31 Jim is backguitars, and his cherry red hot rod, before leading him in a two-car parade down the block to the hotel where a crowd is waiting to greet the hometown hero.  Jim does little to soften their excitement and boasts about his success as a solo artist after leaving Bobby Fleet’s Band with a Beat, even though it’s all just a facade.

Ellie (who came to town after Jim left and isn’t aware of his success) is the first to draw attention to Jim’s money problems.  She tells Andy that he’s been putting all his purchases at the drug store on credit.  Andy then crosses the street to Floyd’s barber shop, where Floyd and Jason, the hotel owner, both fret over Jim’s unpaid bills.

Andy decides to call Jim’s former bandleader, Bobby Fleet.  Bobby tells Andy the story of Jim’s split from the band.  Apparently the guitarist got a little big for his britches and pressured Bobby to change the name of the band to include “Lindsey.”  Bobby refused and belittled Jim’s talent, thus placing the last straw on the camel’s back.  Despite their fight neogriffithism 1.31 Ellie is concernedBobby is still impressed by Jim’s talent and is willing to take him back into the band if he can get past his pride.  Andy leaves Bobby in the Sheriff’s department and goes to fetch Jim.  He finds him packing his things to leave town and tells him he knows everything.  Jim refuses to crawl back to Bobby so Andy arrests him in what is frankly a wildly unethical abuse of power, claiming that it’s because of the guitarist’s unpaid bills even though Jim offers his watch to cover what he owes.

Back in the jailhouse Bobby takes care of Jim’s expenses and apologizes for calling him a neogriffithism 1.31 Barney's jailhouse blues“no-talent bum.”  After some convincing Jim agrees to rejoin the band.  Andy and Jim then play together one more time, until Barney offers to join in with his harmonica, prompting them to lock him in a cell before they resume.

Side Notes

  • After Jim’s previous appearance I mistakenly predicted that Jim would return with money woes due to a bad business deal, not his own hubris.
  • This is Ellie’s very last appearance.
  • Barney tells Ellie that Jim has a hit record called “Rock N’ Roll Rosie from Raleigh.”
  • My band The Rock N’ Roll Rosies from Raleigh are available to perform in and around the Research Triangle.

The Moral of the Story

“Pride goeth before the fall.”  Jim’s problems start when he buys into his own hype.  He insists on having equal billing with Bobby then quits when the leader insults him.  He’s too bullheaded to apologize so he just watches as his mony goes down the drain.  The situation is only rectified when Bobby proves himself the bigger man, puts his pride aside, and apologizes for insulting Jim.

Modern Mayberry

On Saturday (12/9/17) a reporter for the Washington Post, Dave Weigel, tweeted a picture of the arena where President Donald Trump held a rally the day before.  The image seemed to indicate that the crowd at the rally was small.  When it was brought to Dave’s attention that the picture was taken before the event began and all the audience members had taken their seats he promptly deleted the tweet and apologized.  Donald responded with this tweet:

 

Dave made a relatively trivial mistake and apologized, but instead of forgiving and forgetting Donald took the opening to attack while his prey was vulnerable.  The idea of owning one’s mistakes seems to be a foreign concept to Donald.  At times he has suggested that he has never made a mistake in his life.  Salon has a recap of his history of failing and refusing to apologize up to March of 2017 if you’re interested, but let’s move on to why apologizing matters.

Apologizing indicates that I know what I did was wrong and why.  It shows that I’m determined not to repeat the same mistake in the future.  It also tells the person I’ve wronged that their feelings and well-being matter to me.  According to the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy an apology “recognises the offended as an equal moral agent,” meaning that the person I have hurt and their feelings are equal to me and mine.

The illusion of perfection is the enemy of goodness and apologizing is the ultimate weapon in that battle.  Apologizing means acknowledging that we can be better than we have been or are now and that we will pursue that betterment.  Donald’s prideful ways have led him to choose the appearance of exceptionalism over its authentic pursuit.  That choice is why Donald will never make any meaningful changes to himself or the country.

The importance of apologizing has been a given in society for a long time, perhaps reaching new heights in the last twenty years.  This is another instance of Donald getting away with something that everyone, including his supporters, knows is wrong, much to my bewilderment.  For the record, I’d like to take this opportunity to apologize for letting my emotions get away from me in the wake of the events at Charlottesville.  I believe it’s important to present one’s viewpoints calmly and rationally, which is why I am currently resisting the urge to write “this guy is nuts, right?  What is going on?” in all-caps.

Scared Enough to Break the Silence

We open with a North Carolina State Police car hot on the chase, in pursuit of a dangerous criminal.  The two machines fly down a dirt road in the countryside.  The perp pulls off the road and hides in the woods until his predators pass him by, then he takes off in the opposite direction, towards a sleepy little town where he can lay low for a while.  Little does he know that Mayberry is no ordinary town, with no ordinary Sheriff’s deputy.

The wanted man, known as Eddie Brooke, lets his guard down when he arrives in Mayberry.  He thinks he’s safe in the warm bosom of this friendly hamlet, but then he makes a fatal mistake: he litters in front of Barney Fife.  Barney’s eagle eyes spot the crime in progress and he begins to write Eddie a citation.  Before Barney can finish neogriffithism 1.30 There... Goes... My... Herowriting the state police drive by and Eddie panics.  He runs into Barney and the two men become tangled, their bodies intertwining, symbolizing the eternal conflict between law and anarchy.  Barney holds the criminal lang enough for the state police, Sergeants Johnson and Miller, to take Eddie into their custody, but not before the thug threatens his captor.

The arrest makes Barney the talk of the town.  He quickly begins to glow with pride.  Andy offers him the day off to spend with his girlfriend, Thelma Lou, but he declines; he can’t bear the thought of the streets going unguarded.  He happily retells the story of his battle with Eddie, describing his innovative, Jackie-Chan-esque use of an everyday item as a weapon, in this case his own body.  Aunt Bee and Andy have the idea to throw a party for the conquering hero.  Barney’s good time comes crashing down when two unexpected guests arrive at the party.  Johnson and Miller regretfully inform the merrymakers that Eddie has escaped.  The manhunt begins anew, now with Andy and Barney working hand in hand with the State Police.

They wander the woods, looking for Eddie as they sweat under the sweltering sun.  When Andy and Barney take a moment to catch their breath Barney jumps at a sound coming from the nearby bushes, a sound that is revealed to only be a rabbit.  Without saying much at all Barney confesses to Andy that Eddie’s capture wasn’t quite as heroic as it seemed.  Finally, Andy spots Eddie in the loft of a barn but he doesn’t tell anyone.  Instead, he sends in Barney and tells him that the barn will now serve as the center of communications for the manhunt.  As Eddie makes his move Andy is watching from neogriffithism 1.30 the man is gottenoutside.  He takes advantage of Barney’s skittishness and throws a rock in Eddie’s direction.  The noise makes Barney jump into action, accidentally drawing his gun on the crook.  Once again, Barney is a hero but this time with a little more honor.  The episode ends with a second attempt at a surprise party for the triumphant warrior, with Johnson and Miller in attendance not as bearers of bad news but as two more revelers.

Side Notes

  • The crowd that gathers as Barney tussles with Eddie during the first arrest features a very special guest: a black person in Mayberry!neogriffithism 1.30 A black person in Mayberry!
  • Eddie is played by Barney Phillips, who is best known for playing a diner cook in the classic Twilight Zone episode “Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?”

The Moral of the Story

This is an episode about courage and heroism.  Andy tells Opie that a hero is often born when someone “gets scared enough to do something brave.”  Oddly, fear wasn’t really a part of Barney’s first interaction with Eddie.  When Eddie collided with him he seemed surprised and confused, but not really afraid.  However, when Eddie escapes and puts a target on Barney’s back the deputy is gripped by terror.  His fear puts him on edge, causing him to draw his gun at the drop of a hat until he draws it at just the right time to catch the crook.  In this case heroism requires courage, and courage is defined as doing what’s right in spite of fear.

Modern Mayberry

So much of society is centered on fear.  We think about it all the time.  We’re afraid of fascism, communism, nuclear winter, rape, murder, even things as simple as rejection, failure, or uncomfortable social situations.  Fear is an omnipresent element of modern life, maybe it always was.  However, fear has gone strangely overlooked as a crucial element of one of the biggest issues in the zeitgeist.  Too many people fail to understand the role of fear in the torrent of sexual harassment allegations.

Almost every accusation is a story of a man using fear to control a woman.  In her detailed account of her experience with film producer Harvey Weinstein actress Lupita Nyong’o repeatedly expresses fear: “I panicked,” “I mustered up the courage.” “my heart was beating very fast.”  In the end she plainly explains “That’s why we don’t speak up — for fear of suffering twice, and for fear of being labeled and characterized by our moment of powerlessness.”

Now a seemingly endless number of women are speaking up, and although their harassers are finally facing the consequences of their actions the accusers are also seeing those fears that Lupita described coming to fruition.  Many people are quick to dismiss harassment accusers as opportunists looking for a quick buck.  I have no idea what these opportunities would be, considering that these accusations are very public, which would rule out the possibility of hush money, and I’m not aware of a single person in the entertainment industry who has gotten a big career boost by accusing a powerful man.  Nonetheless, some are still more willing to believe that a woman is lying than that a man is guilty of harassment.

So, in light of the consequences and without the promise of fame and fortune, why would a woman speak out against someone like Harvey?  Maybe because they’re afraid of what he will do in the future, because they’re afraid that all the men like him will keep doing what they’ve been doing.  Because they’re scared enough to do something brave.

What do you think Andy would do?

Barney Profiles a Suspect

It was a dark and stormy night when Barney’s imagination started getting away from him. An encounter with an introverted farmer named Sam Becker puts ideas in the deputy’s head. He becomes convinced that Sam is hiding something, specifically a person with a bullet wound. He visits the Taylor house to share his theory with Andy and neogriffithism 1.29 stakeoutconvince him to investigate. Together they watch from the shadows as Sam toils in his field in the middle of the night until someone flashes the lights in the house and Sam jumps from the tractor and runs inside. Barney believes that he’s been proven right but Andy believes there could be any number of innocent explanations so they return to the Sheriff’s office to get some work done and keep Otis company.

While Barney is away Andy gets a mysterious phone call and rushes back to the Becker farm. Upon Barney’s return Otis tells him where Andy went, reawakening the deputy’s fear. His terror is only worsened when he gets a call from Andy who only has time to stress the life-or-death importance of the situation before he gets cut off. Barney calls on Floyd to get a posse together and meet him at the Becker homestead.

Meanwhile, Andy has his hands full, but not with a crime scene: Sam’s wife Lily is about to deliver a baby and the local doctor is out of town. The only person at hand is Andy himself. He’s fairly confident in his ability to deliver a baby (perhaps unjustifiably) but his main concern is settling Sam’s nerves. When Barney arrives he sees Andy trying to force Sam to sit down and relax through the window and assumes they are in a serious fight. He bursts through the door with his gun raised only to find Sam pacing the floor neogriffithism 1.29 peeping Barnwhile Andy sits at a desk and prepares for what he’s about to do.

Once Barney is briefed on the situation his concern shifts from delusions of criminality to Andy’s ability to deliver a baby, or lack thereof. Apparently in his younger days Andy struggled with a school biology project involving a grasshopper. Nevertheless, Andy insists on projecting confidence.

Still, he now has to contend with the anxieties of both Barney and Sam. He puts the two of them together and gets them talking about their times in the service; Barney during World War II and Sam in Korea. While they are sharing war stories Andy slips into the bedroom and quietly delivers the baby without notice. Apparently Lily is even quieter than Sam. A lot quieter. A lot. Eventually, Andy interrupts the reminiscing to introduce neogriffithism 1.29 three wise men visit the miracle childSam to his new son. Andy leaves the boy with his father and goes out on the porch for a relaxing smoke in the post-storm quiet. Outside he finds Floyd and his posse hiding in the bushes with their guns, and in Floyd’s case rocks, at the ready. Sometime later Andy returns with Aunt Bee, Opie, and a whole surprise baby shower of sorts to celebrate the arrival of little Andy Becker.

Side Notes

  • I’m afraid my timing was a little off, this episode would have been a good one to feature the week of Halloween.
  • Never showing Lily Becker was a choice.
  • Floyd’s back!
  • Sam is played by prolific character actor William Schallert who has a career stretching from an uncredited appearance in Mighty Joe Young (1949) to an episode of Two Broke Girls in 2014.

The Moral of the Story

In a way, this episode tells two stories, the first of Barney’s baseless suspicions about Sam and the second of Andy delivering a baby without any experience. Barney believes that because Sam shares certain similarities, including superficial ones like facial structure, to his profile of criminal than he must be one. He believes that Andy’s failures in school, likely over a decade before, disqualify him from performing a task now. In both cases Barney assumes the least of someone and both times he is proven wrong. Sam is no criminal and Andy is perfectly capable of filling in for an Obstetrician in a pinch. It goes to show that people are often more than they seem, especially if you make assumptions based on little to no information.

Modern Mayberry

As children we are taught that it is wrong to judge people by superficial aspects. Anyone who came of age after the 1960’s likely has these famous words ingrained in their consciousness, as well as their conscience: “I have a dream that my four little chi1dren will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” We all know that it is wrong to judge or persecute someone for shallow characteristics like their skin color or where they were born but still there are many who find that acceptable, or even encourage it. It’s as if people struggle to connect the concept of prejudice, which they know is wrong, with real instances of it happening right in front of their faces. To that end, I offer a few examples.

When George Zimmerman hunted down and shot an unarmed person because he felt that “these assholes they always get away,” (whatever “these assholes” means [please excuse the unMayberry-esque language but I think it’s best to quote this verbatim]) he made a judgment based on the surface, not the content of Trayvon Martin’s character.

When Donald Trump tries or even succeeds to ban people from entering the United States because they share a religion or nation of origin with a small number of terrorists, he’s persecuting them for what’s on the surface, not the content of their character. When Donald deports huge numbers of Mexican immigrants because a very small percentage of them are rapists and criminals that’s called profiling, not judging based on content of character. (When he claims that all or a majority or anything close to it of Mexicans or Muslims are guilty that’s called lying.)

When North Carolina tries to regulate which bathroom people can use because of a baseless fear that they would commit rape if they were to use one the legislature doesn’t approve of that’s a non-character-content based judgment.

It can be tempting to find patterns where there aren’t any and it’s even easier to believe in the existence of patterns that the world has always told you were there when they aren’t, but we all know it’s wrong. So, maybe let’s not do that, OK? Let’s all try to do what we know is right and look a little deeper before we cast aspersions. Let’s try a little harder to look past the stereotypes and expect to see more than we assumed. We already know we should, so let’s act like it.

 

What do you think Andy would do?