Monday, May 30, 2011

Saving Archie Bunker

It's Memorial Day in the U.S., an occasion that for me sparked memories of--of all people--Archie Bunker.

If you're of a certain age (as I am) you must remember Archie. He was a fixture on TV back in the 1970s in Norman Lear's All In The Family.

Remember what a dolt he was? What a male chauvinist?  And so bigoted, too. Remember how he always came out second best in screaming matches with his flagrantly leftist, perpetually P.C. son-in-law, whom he "lovingly" called Meathead (because he said he was "dead from the neck up")?

The reason I thought of Archie, though, is because he was also, memorably, a veteran of "the big one"--double-U-double-U-two. And when I think back on it, his having served his country in that war was never spoken of with respect, or admiration, or awe. Rather, in that era, when memories of Vietnam were still fresh, Archie's service to his country and to the cause of freedom was derided, disparaged, and there was nothing funnier than seeing old Archie the working class Republican from Queens, New York, don his now too-tight uniform and spew his bigotry.

Back then no one thought it shameful to treat veterans so shabbily and with such disdain. Ah, but that was well before books such as The Greatest Generation made it respectable to appreciate them once again. Looking back, I can't believe it was once considered the height of sophistication to make fun of a WW2 veteran for his service, and for his pride in that service. But, shockingly, it was. So, on the occasion of this Memorial Day, and on behalf of all WW2 veterans, I'd like to say, retroactively, shame on Norman Lear for his meatheadness. And shame on us for ours.


Carlos Perera said...

Having come to the U. S. as a political exile from a Communist country, I always sided reflexively with Archie against his son-in-law, except, perhaps, when Archie spewed racial bigotry. (Although, even then, Archie's "bigotry" was often a rational reaction to the ineluctable fact that, as Mona Charen--no Archie Bunker she--once put it, "In the U. S. crime often wears a black face." Remember that the five years preceding the inception of _All in the Family_ in 1971 had seen the sharpest spike in crime rates in the history of the U. S. since comprehensive statistics began to be kept, not to mention the series of savage, wantonly destructive race riots that made urban ruins out of places like Detroit and Newark.)

I must say, though, that my own memory of the times does not bear out a climate of general contempt for American Armed Forces veterans, at least not outside the _rive gauche_ precincts of the intelligentsia and their disciples in the media. Even at the University of Florida, which was at the time considered to be the most Leftist of Florida's college campuses, and which I attended beginning in fall, 1971, disrespect for the military was confined to a small percentage of the students, those who had drunk the Kool-Aid of the "New Left" (which was essentially the same as the "Old Left," with worse haircuts, as far as I could tell). Even kids who were very frightened of being drafted and sent to fight in Vietnam did not voice disrespect for American veterans or even active servicemen who had fought in Vietnam.

The Canadian chattering classes (which even then were farther left than their counterparts south of the border), though, were much more stridently anti-Vietnam War even than our native variety in the U. S. Canada--a NATO ally!--infamously served as a refuge for American draft dodgers, many of whom appear to have nested in the Toronto and Montreal metropolitan areas. Perhaps that has colored Scaramouche's perception of how widespread disrespect for American veterans was at the time.

scaramouche said...

I think what coloured my impression was Norman Lear and M*A*S*H. And, of course, being a lefty myself back then.