Norman Lear’s work was an integral part of American life in the second half of the 20th Century. Television programs like Maude, Sanford and Son, and The Jeffersons dragged television out of the 1950s and into the real world. As Variety states: “Lear’s shows were the first to address the serious political, cultural and social flashpoints of the day – racism, abortion, feminism, homosexuality, the Vietnam war – by working pointed new wrinkles into the standard domestic comedy formula. No subject was taboo: Two 1977 episodes of All in the Family revolved around the attempted rape of lead character Archie Bunker’s wife Edith.”
All in the Family, which ran on CBS from 1971 to 1979, typified the clash of generations. Middle-aged bigot Archie Bunker – played by Carrol O’Connor – was a right-wing King Lear in Queens, raging at the radical changes in society. Archie didn’t let ignorance get in the way of his opinions; once he argued that people who lived in communes were communists. The thing is, the old dog was actually capable of learning new tricks. Archie never evolved into any kind of saint. But over the nine seasons "Family" aired, experience taught Archie the benefits of listening to (and respecting) viewpoints far different from his own.
All in the Family was the jewel in Lear’s crown, but don’t forget the highly popular shows One Day at a Time (which featured Bonnie Franklin as a divorcee raising two daughters in the Midwest) and Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman (with Louise Lasser as the titular figure in a parody of soap opera conventions). Good or bad, Lear’s work was never indifferent.
More recently, you may have heard about Lear’s lively activism. His TV shows were themselves arguments for free and unfettered speech, and Lear supported a slate of liberal causes. In 1981 he founded People for the American Way. The organization’s website describes the ways that PFAW has “engaged cultural and community leaders and individual activists in campaigns promoting freedom of expression, civic engagement, fair courts, and legal and lived equality for LGBTQ people.”
Lear’s life was a long and fulfilling one. In 1978 he was given the first of two Peabody Awards, the most prestigious award in television. “To Norman Lear,” it reads, “...for giving us comedy with a social conscience. He uses humor to give us a better understanding of social issues. He lets us laugh at our own shortcomings and prejudices, and while doing this, maintains the highest entertainment standards.”
A pioneer, a gadfly of the state, a mensch. To paraphrase a lyric from All in the Family’s theme song, “Mister, we could use a guy like Norman Lear again.”
The Cognitive Dissonance Between Commemorating D-Day and Supporting Trump
How can one commemorate all that D-Day represents while cheering on the nationalist Trump administration as it attempts to dismantle the very alliances America solidified during WWII?
75 years ago today, on June 6, 1944, the Allied forces landed on the Nazi-occupied beaches of Normandy, liberating France and laying the foundation for Allied victory on the Western Front; this operation came to be known as D-Day.
But while many Americans are using the anniversary to commemorate the Greatest Generation's historic valor, it's important to recognize that anyone doing so while continuing to support Donald Trump and the current far-right agenda are blatant hypocrites. After all, D-Day was an international effort against fascism. So how could one possibly justify commemorating all that D-Day represents while cheering on a hyper-nationalist, identitarian administration attempting to dismantle the very alliances America solidified during WWII?
D-Day was a collaborative effort involving the United States, the British Empire, Canada, Australia, Czechoslovakia, France, Norway, and Poland. One might even categorize such an effort as globalist. The allied forces were fighting against an oppressive regime based around white nationalist superiority and discrimination against ethnic and LGBTQ minorities. The Nazis were also notorious for killing non-white children. All of these factors echo actions committed by the Trump administration—but it's different when America does it, right? Or maybe we just need to wait until our atrocities reach the level of the Nazis.
Trump speech on D-DayREUTERS
Meanwhile, the Trump administration is working tirelessly to soil every good relationship America has around the globe, alienating Canada, France––the whole EU, really––and multiple other trading partners. Australia just barely dodged the bullet. Make no mistake, Trump is dictatorially-minded with a penchant for obstructing established government oversight at every turn. The fact that he hasn't done more damage yet is a testament to the tentative functionality of our checks and balances, which he's challenged at every turn. To continue supporting Donald Trump is to support the same ideological basis we fought against during World War II.
The question, then, is how are so many Americans capable of both publicly memorializing D-Day and also supporting Donald Trump? For some, like Senator Lindsey Graham, the answer is likely that they have embraced their own hypocrisy.
But for many, the reasoning is probably far less intentional. Cognitive dissonance is a psychological phenomenon characterized by the discomfort caused by holding two conflicting beliefs at the same time. It's possibly the reason why many Trump supporters double-down when confronted with evidence contradictory to their views. Digging one's heels into the ground and refusing to acknowledge hypocrisy is a much more soothing solution than addressing one's own ideological inconsistencies. This explains how Trump supporters can both love the idea of Americans fighting fascist regimes while supporting a fascist regime themselves. They tell themselves that the Nazis were "real" fascists and then excuse away all of Trump's fascist actions. They further solidify this belief by pretending that left-leaning people are the "real" fascists, because how dare they call Trump fascist in the first place and demonetize hate speech on YouTube.and...women in video games, or whatever.
So what's the best way to really commemorate D-Day, a day when Americans banded together with our global allies to kick fascism's ass? By praising our divisive, nationalist president for reading something off a teleprompter? Somehow, that doesn't seem right. After all, D-Day is about fighting Nazis, not fellating them. Perhaps one could think it over at Wendy's––milkshakes are especially nice this time of year.
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