Perhaps the most viral video to hit the system of tubes known as the internet last week was the one in which Ron Howard reenacts his roles as Opie Taylor and Richie Cunningham in order to demonstrate "the importance of voting for Barack Obama" this year. In pursuit of a Democrat victory in the presidential race, he also recruited both Andy Griffith and Henry Winkler to revisit the roles of Sheriff Andy Taylor and Arthur Fonzarelli respectively.
None of the GOP ship-jumpings, neither that of Scott McClellan, Ken Adelman, William Weld, nor even that of Colin Powell, saddened me nearly as much as Howard's momentary return to Mayberry and Milwaukee.
Growing up, I was a fan of both Happy Days and The Andy Griffith Show. I squandered quite a few Tuesday evenings watching the antics of those crazy kids down at Arnold's. Back in my son's closet still hangs my original "Fonzie" leather jacket and a "Fonz" t-shirt that my mother decided to preserve for some thirty-odd years so that I could hand them down as some sort of pop culture heirloom.
I felt an even greater bond for The Andy Griffith Show. Friends have even commented that I was Opie Cunningham growing up since I came from a small town and my father was a one of the higher-ups in local law enforcement who shared Andy Taylor's country charm, common sense, and folksey, yet firm, approach to justice. Like my dad, Andy was a gentle, loving father, yet one who made certain that his son knew where the wood-shed was located and its primary purpose in early childhood growth and development.
So one can imagine my dismay when I saw Opie and Andy down by the fishin' hole singing down-home hosannas for Barack Obama. I wasn't surprised that either supported a Democrat. After all, it is Hollywood, and I even remember reading that Andy Griffith traditionally supports Democrat candidates. Besides, my father was a lifelong Democrat as well (granted, by 1984, he was a Reagan Democrat, but a card-carrying Democrat just the same).
My disappointment came from Howard's use of these characters for politics, period. Granted, it would have been easier for me to swallow had the Taylor family been praising John McCain, but it still would have been a shame that Howard and Griffith exploited the love that those of us in fly-over country have for that show to get some politician elected. Although LBJ was President for much of the life of the show, his size 11 shit-kickers never touched the sidewalks in Mayberry, North Carolina. Floyd the Barber never talked about that handsome young man Jack Kennedy. Neither Richard Nixon or Barry Goldwater ever showed up (although folks would be right nice to them if they did). Sure, Andy had to call on Raleigh to supplement the Sheriff's Office budget every once in a while, but Washington? Washington was the Father of Our Country whose picture was hanging on the wall in Miss Helen Crump's classroom, a person, not a place.
Mayberry is rural America's Brigadoon, and by donning that red toup' and digging his striped green shirt and fishing pole out of mothballs, Ron Howard has broken that enchantment.
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