Before Homer Simpson, there existed the equally cartoonish, Archie Bunker of the American sitcom, All in the Family (1971-1979). The cantankerous Archie Bunker character had been based on a stereotypical white, American middle-class male conservative of that day. Suspicious of intellectuals, he spent most of his time on his couch bemoaning modern trends in culture, technology, and even sports. The extent of his interaction with the world had been to argue with his wife and daughter and son-in-law on what was wrong with the society, while reading the newspaper and watching TV. One could imagine that if Fox had been broadcasting in those years he would have be one of its fans, reveling in its conservative spin where politics is a binary of black/white, right/wrong. He had no interest in nuancing what America would be become. His was an anachronistic America where you worked hard and made a good life or you were a freeloader; a country comprised of a white majority that needed to stay in power and wary of minorities. To that extent, he and his fair-minded daughter never fully agreed on much and never discussed politics unless they wanted to feud.
Witnessing President Donald Trump’s press conference following the Charlottesville tragedy, in which he blamed both sides for the unrest, seemed like deja-vu, eerily reminiscent of the rants of Archie Bunker where an inviolate white America was to be defended at all costs against any critiscm or attack.
“What about the ‘alt-left’ that came charging at, as you say, the ‘alt-right,’ do they have any semblance of guilt?” Trump asked. “What about the fact they came charging with clubs in hands, swinging clubs, do they have any problem? I think they do.”
The President’s stance astounded many in the media, who asked how blame could lay elsewhere but at the feet of alt-right protestors who chanted anti semitic slogans and proclaimed support for the Nazi regime.
But its not that hard to understand Trump’s protest. He was elected by a base comprised of men and women of Archie Bunker’s worldview. Trump’s incredibly simplistic mind knows no other way to address the issue other than to take a defensive posture and blame those that threaten the white status quo. It goes no further than that. He has no interest or capacity to fathom the complexity of race relations in this country nor does he have the willingness to improve it. He knows that if he ventures behind the safe parameters of his base he will he eaten alive by those much smarter and possessing a deeper social consciousness. When I listen to Trump I hear the channeling of Archie Bunker. But that fictitious character stood in the twilight of his life and only wanted the safe carapace of a time to which he was familiar and could make sense of. Trump has no such excuse. He is President of the United States and “leader” of the free world and his job is to set an example of what freedom should look like for everyone.
But for now we have to live in recurring episodes of All in the Family.