Friday, November 12, 2010

No, not Archie

A friend sent me a cartoon by Mr. Fish recently. It was almost as a pencil traced etching of a composite photograph, such was the likeness. My friend is a christian pacifist who really prefers National League base ball. Thirty years ago I was in Athens, Ohio. Athens, joking only slightly, sometimes thought of itself as the omphalos of the world. Athens had a series of ridges, and valleys, including the Great Hockhocking. Satellite television was not advanced for home usage yet, cable television was what one had if he wished to watch something other than WOUB. He might have liked it. On most spring and summer nights, one could watch the Mets, Reds, Braves or Cubs. The National League then had twelve clubs, what they had at the end of the 19th century. Pittsburgh was not distant, though the cable did not have a pawanian station to carry the Pirates. The Reds Caravan would come through town in the preseason. Mike Schmitt had been a Bobcat. It was not a big base ball town, but not without enthusiasts. An history professor wrote biographies of Cobb and McGraw.

There is in the Lincoln Memorial the great stone cathedra with the sitted martyred Lincoln. It often has been used in political cartoons. The site on the steps of the memorial by the National Mall has seen Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt stand with Marian Anderson, the singer denied the use of Constitution Hall because of her race. Bob Dylan, Peter, Paul and Mary sang there the day of the Civil Rights March that saw Martin King make a famous american oration.

On the anniversary of that date, there was another event with a provocatively, even insulting name of "Restoring Honor." Who was this ass mocking? King? Obama? Later the comic newsmen Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert answered with the greater attended "Rally to Restore Sanity", which received far less press, and greater crowds.

Archie Bunker's armchair sits in the Smithsonian. It became that well known. The cartoon has Archie in Lincoln's chair, and Glenn Beck standing under it.

Archie was the main character in "All in the Family". This show made a raucous debut on american television of Nixon's America in 1971. Norman Lear was a Hollywood 'leftist' that adapted an english programme. Lear did not create Bunker to be loved, but to be ridiculed. He did not get what he wanted out of Carroll O'Connor and the writers. Archie received his imposed bigotry from the America around him. Archie was not malicious, nor vicious; he was the product of his environment.

Archie was grumpy, cantankerous and beleaguered. He lost and lost again. He grew up in a rough America. The urban working class did not live in luxury. The US was not a land of milk and honey, it was a gritty scramble to survive.

The bigotry was provided for him. Instance after instance, Archie's internal humanity was released when he came to really know people, rather than to know their roles. He became friends with people that he would never have chosen to be with, of course at the introduction, he had no intention to do so.

In one episode, Edith's cousin, Maude (played by a nearly insufferable Bea Arthur) argue about Roosevelt. She reminded him, that his family voted for Roosevelt too. Archie's response was on the lines of—well yeah, the first couple of times, but then he ...

So there was the real character of Archie that was below the rough surface. Now, many people agreed with the outward imposed masque of Archie, that was not too gentle and mellow. I am supposing that this was the one in the cartoon.

Now, there is the teabagger provocateur, Mammon seeking egotist, mormon John Bircher, ex-drunken dope fiend, the semi-literate, fraudulent, vicious radio buffoon that worked on local radio to create lunacies for knuckle draggers. He used to do radio carnival with Jessica Hahn and a gerbil. He called another radio jackass's wife to humiliate her about her miscarriage on air. He has advanced to bigger paychecks, and his audience is a significant percentage of the country. Some would say Beck throws gasoline on the fire. Noooohh, he goes beyond finding embers to ignite with petroleum aerosols. He is an arsonist, who gathers punk, tinder, sawdust and shavings before the kerosene and gasoline is poured. It is somewhat remarkable that he has not had a public psychotic event.

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