Friday, July 06, 2012

Mayberry RFD -- Free?

Andy Griffith died but his show lives on. I loved him and the town of Mayberry even though that south which it was about never existed. I loved the goodness of Mayberry, I loved things always turning out right in the end and I loved Griffith's wisdom ruling the day. I loved the cast – Andy’s innocent young son Opie, their motherly protective Aunt Bea and the brilliant humor of Barney's Don Knotts. He was a centerpiece of the show that ne’er-do-well sheriff’s deputy who could never seem to get things right but was lovable nonetheless. He was slender, petite and powerless with little self-esteem but wanted desperately to have so much of it. All the other characters inspired the warmth and caring of a community who supported each other -- the naïve Gomer Pyle, Goober and Amos the good-hearted drunk who put himself in the tank when he had a little too much juice. He never ended up with cirrhosis, he never killed anyone driving drunk, he never went to endless rehabs and he never ended up dead in a back alley of booze. Andy was a widower but the audience never had to encounter the gut wrenching emotions of a loved one’s death.

The fictional Mayberry RFD was a deeply southern town but, curiously, in Mayberry there was not ONE person of color in residence. Therefore, there was no racial animus of division. There were no cross burnings, no religious oppressive philosophy of hate because, indeed, there was no racism at all. None of the issues that saturated the historical south was a part of Mayberry RFD. There were no literacy tests, no Jim Crow laws, no separate schools, no separate bathrooms or separate drinking fountains -- one for white and one for “colored.”

Mayberry the good was American fiction. The town never existed but many of us wished, if only for a moment, it did because we so desire an era of civility, of goodness, of kindness and of people who care about one another. A part of me spurns the stupidity of that sit com and a part of me yearns for it!