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I Dream Of Mayberry

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"I miss the good old days. You know, when things were simpler and purer. Like Mayberry was." A good friend of mine laments on this idea every time we get to drinking and talking about our childhoods. He genuinely misses those days in our lives when life was simple, and common decency ruled the land. The funny thing about his pining for this era of yesterday is that it never existed.

 

Wanting life to return to the ways of The Andy Griffith Show is probably one of the most ridiculous notions in America today. Seriously. What makes it worse would be the fact that many Americans believe things should return to Mayberry-like conditions. They wish for this small town's worldview whenever they hear news about legislation that favors quicker immigration being considered. They cry for Mayberry's Christian family values whenever they hear that another state is willing to allow gay marriages or offer benefits to these couples.

 

Even politicians use the good old times excuse when passing discriminating legislation. Take Asa Hutchinson, governor of Arkansas, for example. He was going to sign into law one of those Religious Restoration Acts that have been growing in popularity lately. After receiving backlash in Indiana, he became nervous about what he was signing in to law and ultimately decided to send the legislation back for revision instead. Hutchinson isn't the only example of politicians trying to pass zealous legislation across our great country.

 

Many of these bills are passed through state legislatures at an alarming speed all across America right now. They are being promoted under the guise of protecting personal freedoms. Measures like these so-called Religious Restoration Acts are nothing new, but there are also a few types that are narrow and explicitly targeting minority groups like the LGBTQ communities. Child Protection Acts aim to prevent same-sex couples from adopting children because conservative groups believe that not only is it immoral, but these couples are forcing unnatural ideals on their children.

At the end of the day, and a lot of wasted taxpayer money fighting them, these bills generally do not get very far. After deciding to back away from signing the Restoration Act, Asa said that "... In ordinary times, this bill would not be controversial, but these are not ordinary times." When one talks about ordinary times, s/he is referring to the charmed life portrayed by shows like Mayberry.

 

I hate to break it to you, but the circumstances in Mayberry never existed in America. Never, ever. Never, ever, never, ever, ever, EVER. People watch that 1960s family show and treat it as an honest representation of the all-American family formula for success: god, common sense, and small government.

 

This governor I was mentioning had grown up watching this show, as well as other programming with similar themes. He didn't understand that Mayberry, while being set in the 1960s expanding economy, was based on the simpler times of the 1930s. There was a desire for nostalgia to be brought into the show, and that is why folk music, church, and focus on the family was incorporated.

So, what does this have to do with America's attitudes today? Let's go back to the 30s and have a look. Many say these were the good times, but how accurate is this statement?

 

The main point of success when talking about the 1930s would be the increased desire for simple living, and that was out of necessity. Passion for simplicity brought an increasing demand for folk music and art. Jobs were scarce thanks to the Depression. Add an agricultural disaster like the Dust Bowl on top of it, and food had become scarce, too. Tradition became king during that decade before WWII broke out, and so did a tough as nails attitude when faced with the desperation to survive in a wrecked economy. Mayberry never bothered with any of this information. It used the 1960s as the story's backdrop to help keep the ugly realities of the Depression away.

 

The Andy Griffith Show was brilliant in its almost seamless meshing of our conservative past with the modern societal trends of the 1960s. Writers of the show used earlier traditional values and the modern conveniences of the future to create an idealized example of American life to entertain us. Americans everywhere watched this show and considered it a standard of reality.

But in truth, it was an illusion. It was a cushion for the depressing news of Vietnam's bloody loss of lives. It was an escape from the television coverage of the draft, desegregation, and riots in the streets at major university campuses.

 

Mayberry never truly existed in our history. The good old days, depending on which generation you look to, never had it as good as Mayberry. The entire purpose of The Andy Griffith Show wasn't to highlight reality but to soften it. It hid the ugly racism that demanded blacks to sit at the back of the bus. This show avoided the sexual revolution occurring across the US and instead focused on what was perceived as wholesome. This is what television shows were supposed to do back then: provide a feel-good atmosphere to distract its viewers from the harsh reality of the world around them for a little while.

 

I doubt the writers ever intended for its young audience to actually twist that small town into a distorted remembrance of a real time in history, but that is what happened. Indeed, the producers never intended for their little-imagined village of impossibility to become an actual goal for modern society. Still, that is what many who long for the good old days want to see us become. They want modern convenience, traditions of the past, and all the issues of the world to resolve themselves via a limited standard of reality. If you don't want to play along, go away and be quiet so everyone else can be comfortable. If you don't be silent, then they'll legislate your silence. These ultra-conservatives refuse to accept Mayberry's perfect storefronts, comical barber, and admired sheriff as the illusions they truly were. Much like their Bibles, conservative Christians cling to the idea that simpler times are a panacea for all things wrong in the world. After all, on the streets of this Vermont town, there is less temptation and less opportunity to wander off the divine path to Heaven.

 

There is also the assumption that if everyone is godly, then society will automatically improve. This is something that Mayberry never remotely insisted upon in any of its episodes.

Thankfully, Mayberry had several individuals that never quite fit in. Despite not fitting in, or even genuinely conforming, one character really did have a positive impact on the town. I think you all know who I am referring to in particular. Yes, Ernest T. Bass is who I'm talking about. Deputy Fife saw him as a nut. Myself? I think Ernest was an innovator. He showed ingenuity, determination, and a knack for making people think outside their own interests. This outcast even managed to garner support from Sheriff Taylor himself, all while clashing with the fundamental principles the town operated on. Of course, he wasn't the only one who showed doubt about the moral reasoning of his fellow townsfolk. Fife's character would often challenge reason.

 

There is always wiggle room in the relationships depicted on the show, and even a willingness to understand different points of view on issues. One episode, in particular, demonstrates this dynamic of the show when Barney believes in psychic powers. You see that Andy indulges Barney's agnosticism about Aladdin's lamp. While this particular scene tries to be humorous, it shows a willingness to meet in the middle, and at least discuss why a person feels a certain way. On top of that, you also see it is okay just to agree to disagree and still be friends. This is how society should work to be successful. How all these genuinely beautiful examples of functioning society have been blatantly ignored in favor of an impossible one-size-fits-all lifestyle is beyond me.

 

Many evangelicals band together because they share a common belief structure, with little care of how crude and divisive their behavior is to the society around them. They isolate themselves from the rest of America's citizenry. When one would rather be pit against the entire world than be willing to compromise, one will learn that this mentality will cost them dearly in the future. Someone needs to conclusively demonstrate that strength isn't necessarily in just numbers anymore but in that of overall unity on issues and goals which are inclusive. Being contrary simply because of cultural differences is both foolish and costly for our future.

 

Will ultra-conservatives ultimately decide to leave our shores and found their own country like the Pilgrims or Puritans? I hope not. The Pilgrims at first found England too corrupt and oppressive, so they tried to immigrate to Holland. But once in Holland, their children began assimilating to Dutch culture, and this was unacceptable, so they returned to England. Over time, they left again, this time hoping for a possible future in North America. What happened once arriving in America? They started to divide against each other and formed their own separate churches. You had witch trials. Heresy charges. Adultery. Capital charges included methods that gave one jail time, public whippings, and more.

 

The bottom line here is that Christianity has to quit running away from the world and consider picking up a few lessons from other cultures. This doctrine and its leaders obviously can't handle it out there on their own. They are continually running away from accountability and insisting everyone else must conform to their standards to avoid it. It's time for them to make reasonable accommodation for the world around them, not the other way around. Also, ultra-conservatives must begin to acknowledge the harm being caused by their repressive legislative tactics against those who don't follow their ideology.

 

There isn't a stretch of land large enough or a television show whose interpretation is well-written enough to give these political zealots the perfect theocracy they desire. They are often the authors of their own misery, eating their own when confronted with non-conformity within their ranks. This constant demonstration of cognitive dissonance is foolhardy and oh so limiting in understanding how the world they live in actually works.

 

Here's a reminder of what the 1930s simple life involved:

 

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Pardon me? Hahaha I wrote this completely. Anytime I use an outside source for things like statistics or if I expand on something I've read, I alway give sources. This whole Mayberry notion I have listened to for years from coworkers, family, and even a few lovers. And I recognize it for the joke it is. As far as what time period the show is based off of, that is on Wikipedia. But how the 30s and 60s were, that's high school 101. So maybe I owe wikipedia credit for telling me exactly which time period they incorporated on the show. :-)

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That was a beautifully brilliant post Zomberina, telling how the fifties and its fellow decades actually was compared to the much vaunted televisual American fifties, the playground of Lucille Ball, June Cleaver and Andy Griffiths.

 

It's true that the 30s to the 60s in America and its allies were grim, tough but soft hearted in some quarters such as in the underground culture of homophiles who had to learn from much stigmatised political parties and various activists such as Barbara Gittings (who I admire - Wikipedia her please) and Frank Kameny (ditto); the black people who had to endure terrible racial slurs in the streets, they had to stay in the unofficial ghettos probably to this day but altered as living in poor neighbourhoods such as that of Detroit or slummy social housing (which is meekly called 'the projects' in some places) not dissimilar to how the Jews lived before the Nazis embarked on their despicable holocaust; and the disabled people were across many Anglo-American (and associated) nations forced to live in institutions and even forced to endure sterilisation and institutional abuse in the name of eugenics which were later copied by the Nazis who admired the initiative the Americans and Europeans were taking.

 

These histories are rather ugly and I agree with you that we should not hide these ugly histories so we can force ourselves to go into even uglier futures. The fundamentalist Christian, I agree are being deluded and sometimes bigoted about how they see history.

 

Congratulations, Zomberina!

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Awesome post.

 

I'd like to add that this sort of historical revisionism in television was rampant during the 60-70s. There was an onslaught of Westerns (Bonaza, The Virginian, Gunsmoke and others) during the 60s, along with shows like The Andy Griffith Show, The Beverly Hillbillies and lots of other shows that idealized the past and portrayed the rural white American mindset.

 

The Waltons and Little House on the Prairie did the same thing during the 70s and early 80s. Both shows were 'wholesome' and basically glazed over the hardships of the periods they were based in. Hell, even MASH was somewhat revisionist, attempting to make sense and show a sense of humor about the early conflict in Korea in a post-Vietnam era.

 

Today's Mayberryism can be summed up thusly:

"(Well) I miss Mayberry

Sitting on the porch drinking ice-cold cherry Coke
Where everything is black and white 
Picking on a six string
Where people pass by and you call them by their first name
Watching the clouds roll by
Bye, bye" -- Lyrics to "Mayberry" by country group Rascal Flatts
 
Interpret them how you will, I think it's pretty open and shut for those of us who live in the space between California and New York. wink.png
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Excellent post Zomberina!  You are a very gifted writer.  I look forward to reading more of your posts in the future.

 

Interestingly enough, I was laying in my bed last night thinking about the ridiculous song by Rascal Flats titled, "Mayberry".  I went to sleep pondering how anybody could possibly be comfortable living in the 'black and white' society that is idolized in that song.

 

I woke up today and accidentally found this article.  Synchronicity?  Mere Coincidence?  Who the hell knows. lol  All the same, you made some fantastic points in this post. 

 

Keep writing Zomberina!  You're really good at it.  (I'm sure you already know that though, don't you?) tongue.png

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Now I am going to have to find this song and listen. I can't stand rockabilly music though, but I'll persevere to better understand the references in this thread.

 

So glad you all like my writings. :)

 

I was told Read. Write. Risk.  And every time I post one, I always get nervous my audience won't come back because whatever I'd composed was horribly flawed. hahah!

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Now I am going to have to find this song and listen. I can't stand rockabilly music though, but I'll persevere to better understand the references in this thread.

 

 

Trust me Zomberina, I have a feeling you're going to love it...  And, by love it, I mean you'll probably feel a strong urge to rage-hate on it. lol  It epitomizes everything you just wrote about.

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Oh my goodness, I barely got through that. I mean, it's a horrendously put together piece anyway. But, the first few verses just irked the piss out of me.

 

Somedays it feels like we're spinning faster than we used to in the old days?

 

So, naturally we have more natural disasters from the strain of a fast pace?

Da fuck? Was the writer an eight year old that hadn't gotten into earth science yet?????

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Oh you know you liked dat durr Mayburry!!!!! Hawhawhaw....

 

The individual members of the band Rascal Flatts  have gospel/CCM backgrounds. The group itself (to my knowledge) has never released anything in those genres, preferring to stick to modern country. So it's entirely within the realm of possibility that they may not have gotten to that chapter in the Bible where God gives us earth science (oh wait, nevermind...)

 

Sadly, things have gotten worse in country music since that song was released. I wish that the drivel that pumped through the airwaves of my 3 local country music stations was even half as 'good' as that song. No shit, try listening to some Florida Georgia Line for a taste of the lyrical wizardry (sarcasm should be noted!) of the country genre these days...

 

Anyway, I really enjoyed this blog entry. It reminded me of a lot of the conversations I had with the older (45+) folks at my former church. Everyone talked about how great it was in the old days. Everyone glossed over the realities of the times. Or maybe they were lucky enough to be members of the comfortably numb white middle class during that time period?
 
Idk. I used to get uncomfortable when topics were mentioned in my bible study group. The older folks would talk about how nice and safe things used to be, how respectful the youth were and how 'gay' and 'illegitimacy' weren't 'real issues' back then. People were helpful! Government was effective! Socialism was a dirty word! smiliegojerkit.gif
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I think they glossed over the issues of the times. Seriously, seven, it seems that folks only remember what was convenient. They marry into their delusions pop culture ideals and try to act like that is how things really were.

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