Dubya Live Like Archie Bunker for a While
July 5, 2001
Carroll O'Connor left us last week. Our beloved "Archie Bunker"
left this world to make heaven that much sweeter. I know the
term "national treasure" gets overused but O'Connor and his
greatest creation were just that. A character that we despised
and loved at the same time, Archie came into our homes every
Saturday night and gave people something new to talk about
at Sunday dinner. "All in the Family" broke down barriers
and we can all be glad that it started in the 70's. Had the
show tried to break through in a "Survivor/Weakest Link/Dubya
is president" version of America, we would have all been cheated
out of one of the most memorable characters ever to grace
a TV screen.
Archie Bunker was a classic 70's version of blue collar Republicanism.
He loved the flag, he held Nixon in almost regal esteem (remember
"Mr. President, Your Honor, Sir?) and had no tolerance for
anything that disrupted or challenged what he had always been
taught was right. He thought the National Anthem was a great
song even though he couldn't remember the words ("…what so
proudly we hail..of thee I see"). Archie's words shocked mainstream
America. Liberal's were "Commie, pinko fags" and his euphemisms
for minorities made us recoil in disbelief. Archie Bunker
was a stereotypical conservative.
But in the decade plus that "All in the Family" and later
"Archie Bunker's Place" ran on CBS, we witnessed something
truly unique and special. We saw this character grow and change
through the years and, in turn, we grew to love him and his
family. The man who shocked TV audiences in the beginning
with his racist, ignorant and intolerant brand of conservatism
taught many of us a lesson about the many ills that plague
American society both then and now. Unfortunately, there are
still many versions of the "old Archie" still among us. People
who listen to Rush Limbaugh and believe every lie they are
told while they defend the very leaders that are bent on keeping
them in their lowly place on the social ladder. Even more
unfortunate, many are in powerful positions in Washington,
Just for fun, picture what Trent Lott or Dick Cheney would
have done at that Christmas dinner with their old pal "Pinky"(the
man who's son had been killed in Viet Nam) when it was discovered
Mike's friend was a draft dodger. How about picturing Tom
Delay or Jesse Helms being responsible for giving Beverly
LaSalle (the female impersonator) mouth to mouth. Could you
picture a Bob Barr or Newt Gingrich taking in an abandoned
little girl? Can you picture Dubya giving up a valuable family
heirloom to the unrelated lesbian lover of the deceased family
member? I don't think so.
The big difference between Archie and those others mentioned
is that Archie personally experienced so many things. The
sexual attacks on both his wife and daughter, the swastika
on his front door followed by the car bomb going off in his
front yard, the shock of finding out his bowling buddy "Moose"
was gay, the rude awakening when his family turns against
him for joining the Queens Council of Crusaders and then to
realize the fear of having a cross burned on his daughter's
lawn. Granted, more happened to the Bunker household in a
year then happens to most people in a lifetime and those characters
couldn't help but grow.
We all know "All in the Family" was just a TV show and yet
those people became so real to us. Even though the clothes
and language can seem dated, the message and lessons contained
are as relevant today as they were 30 years ago. The show
remains in syndication but now we know Carroll O'Connor is
gone. A friend remarked to me the other day that she wished
the media hadn't told her about his death. That way she could
pretend he would live forever. I had to agree with her. The
word seems so much emptier somehow. But something struck me
the other day, silly as it was, that made me smile.
Maybe we could move Dubya and his kind into their own little
704 Houser Street. Maybe after spending a few years living
the life of Archie Bunker, they too might realize how wrong
they are and grow up. Hey, you never know. You gotta have
faith and as Archie once said, "Faith is something that no
one in their right mind would believe in."
Y'know, Archie? You were a real pip! A real pip! Thank you,
Carroll O'Connor. We miss you and we love you.