“Andy Griffith was a genial and gifted character actor, but when he died on Independence Day eve, you’d have thought we’d lost a Founding Father, not a television star whose last long-running series, ‘Matlock,’ expired in 1995….
“It was as if the nation were mourning its own demise. To the liberal media, Griffith’s signature role, Sheriff Andy Taylor of Mayberry, North Carolina, was ‘one of the last links to another, simpler time’ (the Miami Herald) and a repository of ‘values which actually transcended the deep divides which tore the nation apart during the years the show aired from 1960 to 1968′ (the Washington Post). On the right, the sermonizers quickly moved past an inconvenient fact (Griffith made a spot endorsing Obamacare in 2010) to deify Sheriff Taylor for embodying ‘a time when television was cleaner and simpler’ and for giving ‘millions of Americans the feeling the country stood for all the right things’ (National Review). Among those ‘right’ things was the fictional Mayberry’s form of governance, which, in the ideological take of the Daily Caller, demonstrated that ‘common sense and local control work better than bureaucracy or top-down management.’
“In reality, ‘The Andy Griffith Show’ didn’t transcend the deep divides of its time. It merely ignored them. ‘Local control’ of Mayberry saw to it that this Southern town would remain lily-white for all eight years of its fictive existence rather than submit to any civil-rights laws that would require the federal government’s ‘top-down management’ to enforce….
“The wave of nostalgia for Mayberry and for the vanished halcyon America it supposedly enshrined says more about the frazzled state of America in 2012 and our congenital historical amnesia than it does about the reality of America in 1960. The eulogists’ sentimental juxtapositions of then and now were foreordained. If there’s one battle cry that unites our divided populace, it’s that the country has gone to hell and that almost any modern era, with the possible exception of the Great Depression, is superior in civic grace, selfless patriotism, and can-do capitalistic spunk to our present nadir….”
– From “Mayberry R.I.P.” by Frank Rich in New York magazine (July 22)
Cover headline: “Is America Dead?”