If you’re one of the good people who still watch The Andy Griffith Show, you might get invited to our barbecue. This classic television series remains one of my favorite diversions, and a lonesome reminder that television is capable of doing some good. It stands in stark contrast to the snark, meanness and debauchery waiting for today’s channel surfer. Or so I thought.
If you were reading this on network television or an online streaming service, what follows might come with a “Satire” warning in the corner of the screen for the fragile and for those who are here without benefit of coffee. Consider yourself warned.
Electronic media evolved for the multitasker who eats, sleeps, drives and consumes media with the external brain in hand. We are conditioned to rapidly shift our attention from page to page, multiple tabs open, poking and swiping the days of our lives. We feel like we’re wasting time unless we’re wasting time on a number of things simultaneously. Otherwise we might miss something.
For the most part I’ve learned to miss the subliminal messages and added distractions of the banners and logos that crowd the screens of every network offering. Therefore I don’t know how long my streaming service has been warning me about the hazards of watching Andy and Opie. It seems that Barney Fife was right – it’s a jungle out there. Soon after I queued up an episode of “Andy” the other night, in the upper left hand corner of the screen there appeared this warning: “Foul Language.”
It could be that my archaic human DNA makes me a throwback to an ancient time (mid 20th century?) when we were capable of focusing our attention on one thing at a time. It’s also possible that I’m handicapped by the classical education I received before schools began to focus on social engineering and protecting the fragile by making everyone equally fragile. In any event, that warning got my attention, and I watched the entire episode alert to any possible triggering from the foul language used by the residents of Mayberry.
It never happened. Or perhaps I should say, it never happened to me. Perhaps I wasn’t fragile enough to be triggered. Perhaps education, military service, failure, success, perseverance, faith, – some people might call it life experience – in the real as opposed to the virtual world, had locked my trigger guard into place.
If anyone ever needed a trigger guard, it was Barney Fife. How that one bullet he kept in his pocket never ended up in his foot, I don’t know. The next episode warned of impending violence, but finding myself uninjured by the foul language, I continued to watch.
Watching Barney mishandle his revolver I was insensitive enough to laugh at his antics, but I could understand the reason for the warning if not the intent behind it. But when a friend mentioned Ernest T. Bass, I had a Mayberry epiphany. It’s all encapsulated in the song Ernest T. sang for Charlene Darling accompanied by his carefully tuned gas can. That one song revealed to me how the fragile think, and what I can do to help protect them. Consider this as you picture in your mind Ernest T. trying to find that note as he begins to chant:
Old Aunt Mariah, jump in the fire – age shaming. Fire too hot, jump in the pot – drug use. Pot too black, jump in the crack – racist language and drug use. Crack too high, jump in the sky – drug use again. Sky too blue, jump in canoe – cultural appropriation. Canoe too shallow, jump in the tallow – intellectual elitism. Tallow too soft, jump in the loft – fat shaming. Loft too rotten, jump in the cotton – foul language. Cotton so white she stayed there all night – white privilege!!!
I get it now. I am the problem. I’m Mayberry. I’m a bit of Andy, Barney, Opie, Gomer and Goober. I was raised by Aunt Bee. I’m Briscoe Darling and at least one or two of The Boys. I may even have a dash of Howard Sprague and the mysterious Mr. Schwamp. I should come with a trigger warning pasted on my forehead like one of those annoying plastic stickers they put on every piece of fruit! I’m deeply sorry. I’m celebrity host level sorry, but at this point in life I think it’s just too much for me to change. Cancel me now, or I’ll do you one better and cancel myself preemptively.
Unfortunately, I don’t think my cancellation will do much good. There are just too many people who refuse to submit to the benign despotism of the corporate and political class which so caringly curates all our information. Too many people stubbornly refuse to understand how important the opinions of celebrities and celebrity CEO’s are in guiding us, as Oprah might say, “closer to the light.”
It’s all right there in front of us. It’s so easy. We all hold in our hands the truthy and officially trending narratives of American life which, with great effort and expense are desperately trying to reach us with the news of what is real and what is important. If only we would accept it. Many have. But so many are still so lost in privilege and prejudice and wrong-thinking, trapped in the illusion that what we see and hear outside the official narratives, especially our own life experience, has any validity.
Many of us have fallen on the sword of abject apology, canceled ourselves or been cancelled, but there are so many others trapped by reason, logic, life experience and faith, I’m afraid you ain’t seen the last of Ernest T. Bass.