The Wisdom of Archie Bunker


I love the 1970’s sitcom All in the Family.  To this day.  Wikipedia says All in the Family “broke ground in its depiction of issues previously considered unsuitable for U.S. network television comedy, such as racism, homosexuality, women’s liberation, rape, miscarriage, abortion, breast cancer, the Vietnam War, menopause and impotence.”  It must be true – we all know that Wikipedia is always right all the time…

The main character, Archie Bunker, is a working class World War II vet who is outspokenly bigoted against anybody and everybody who isn’t a red-blooded American male heterosexual WASP.  Carroll O’Conner was brilliant in creating a complex, humorous character who was both repulsive and lovable at the same time.  Archie’s traditional way of living is being threatened by the huge cultural, political and economic upheavals occurring in American society in the 60‘s and 70‘s.  He longs for the good old days when “girls were girls and men were men” and people like him were in charge of everything.

I’m pretty sure my dad didn’t get that Archie was a stereotype of the “old guard”.  He liked Archie and the way he thought about the world.  Yep – that would be my dad.  In a way, my dad was Archie Bunker.   Minus the humor and lovability.

But in the show, no matter what happens between the main characters, they always come back together in the end because they are family.  Their bonds of love and connection allow them to overcome or at least set aside their differences.  As a young woman, I believed this could happen.  I believed that family love and affection could overcome any discord or differences.  What a naive sucker…

My brother is now in his 70’s.  He is, in many ways, like Archie Bunker.  Minus the humor and lovability.  Sound familiar?  America is again experiencing seismic cultural and political shifts.  The demographics of the country are changing dramatically.   The “old guard” is again in an uproar in the face their rapidly decreasing control and influence.  Pandora’s Box is open and there is no putting the lid back on, but don’t try to tell them that.  They want time to go backward.  It doesn’t work that way unless you have a flux capacitor and a DeLorean.

I have a different view.  I think that, on the whole, the changes represent progress.  Not perfection by any means, but steps in the right direction.  I realize that this is my opinion.  I realize that other people have different opinions.  And I respect people’s rights to have a different opinion.  Pretty shocking.   One of the strengths of the Great American Experiment has been how we handle the struggle with the diversity of opinions held by our citizens, and use that struggle to emerge as stronger nation.  Queue flag waving.

My brother disagrees.  He disagrees so vehemently that he has cut off all contact with me.  WTF?  Archie and Bonehead would argue violently but then make up in the end.  Didn’t he see that part of the show?

My brother and I haven’t really argued.  He’s tried many times to “get into it” with me, but I refuse to take the bait.  Knowing that we’ll never find common ground politically and culturally, I really wanted to focus on other aspects of our lives and relationship.  You know, the stuff that we won’t argue about which is like 80% of everything else.

This strategy worked for a while.  Then the Presidential election of 2012 came along.  Evidently I was single handedly responsible for the outcome.  Honestly, I didn’t even put the Obama sticker on my car…

But the damage was done; the die was cast.  I am officially the enemy.  Facebook became the battleground.  Seriously…  95% of my FB posts are about drinking wine, cute animals and our latest vacation.  The other 5% is “hey, you might want to think about this” stuff.  No posts with made up facts or name calling or rubbing anything in.  Just a request to think.  Clearly he feels this is subversive.

I put up with his tirades like a dutiful younger sister until he started calling my friends (who represent a broad political spectrum) unkind names because they didn’t think the reality TV show Duck Dynasty was very good.  Huh?  My multiple requests for civility didn’t go over well.  For the past 3 months, he has not reciprocated to any attempt to contact him.

This all makes me very, very sad.  Life is so incredibly short, especially at our age.  In the end, all of that other nonsense really doesn’t matter does it?  In the end, it’s the love we carry in our hearts for our family and friends, and the love that they carry for us that gives our life it’s richness and meaning.

For all of his flaws, Archie understood that.  I just wish my brother did.