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 Upside of Stopping the World
Easter weekend reflections on the impact of COVID-19 and the global economic shutdown
Being Irish and growing up Catholic, Good Friday has lots of significance, a day of crucifixion, death, which then gives rise to the resurrection - victory over death! Love and hope conquering fear and dismay!
Let's not forget the Good Friday Peace agreement between Northern Ireland, the United Kingdom, and Ireland where arms were put aside after years of hate and warfare finally returned to a relatively stable existence. Ironically, Good Friday 2020 is touted as the day our death toll will peak, and not Easter Sunday as currently projected from the Washington State model.
IGOR PETROV / FOCAL POINT / FLYDRAGON / SHUTTERSTOCK / THE ATLANTIC
As Dr. Fauci, the nation's leading expert on infectious diseases, said on Friday, this is "the end of the famous week". The death toll worldwide has surpassed 100,000. With 18,000 in the US - up 11,000 since last week.
These are not merely numbers, but lives - fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, friends, neighbors, our aged community, our most vulnerable. Such loss has shattered our communities as we struggle to find a dignified way to lay them to rest forever.
However, after such a devastating week we have seen progress. As a result of our concerted efforts to slow down the spread, a flattening of the curve is now visible. Fauci said that despite these small advancements, it's "not time to be pulling back." We must continue to wash our hands and maintain social distancing by wearing masks and keeping 6 feet between us when in public.
The decision to reopen the economy will be President Trump's biggest decision of his life. Asked what metrics he will use, he pointed to his head, which indicates that he'll be the one making this decision. He is hoping for a May 1st reopening, which gives rise to a difference between economic advisors and health advisors.
Trump aims to achieve this soon by creating an "Opening Our Country Taskforce" which he'll announce on Tuesday, April 14. It will be composed of prominent medical professionals and business leaders from across the US who will forge a bipartisan, united front to get the nation back on its feet.
Today the war rages against the "invisible enemy." Is Trump the Churchill of our time, rallying us to beat the enemy not by his rhetoric but by the things he is doing behind the scenes? Who are our enemies? Is it a microscopic virus? Is it our trusted organizations that were created by the US to protect us?
The Pandemic stopped the world. It stopped travel, shut down borders, and drove everyone off the streets into the enclaves of their homes. It caused a monumental shift in how business is done daily. Not to mention an upsurge in technology by students being taught online and employees working from home.
Some of these new mechanisms will remain long after the virus is gone. We may see a more self sufficient America with its own energy supply and a less reliance on China for production of our household items.
Another beneficial change is that great American corporations such as GM and Abbott Labs, are manufacturing needed supplies. Many companies large and small are bringing manufacturing back to the U.S. "Made in America" has a deeper resonance during this unsettling time.
The Pandemic has highlighted health disparities and exposed a wealth divide. Particularly hard hit is the African American community living in low income communities across New York, Milwaukee, Chicago, and New Orleans.
Black patients are disproportionately dying from COVID-19 which illuminates lack of resources and the medical challenges that black communities face every day. Now that this is highlighted America must funnel more funds and resources to support these vulnerable communities.
There are numerous proposed roadmaps for reopening the economy, but antibody testing is getting the most attention. This past week, people who tested positive to COVID-19 are being asked to donate their plasma in order to help those with the disease. If we can get these tests out in plentiful supply we can see who may have been exposed to the virus but has resistance.
There's more availability of medical supplies and medications such as hydroxychloroquine. Two companies now have the go ahead to sterilize critical PPE such as masks and gowns that will be provided to critical areas very soon.
We are in uncharted water, no one knows what will happen when we return to work. Will there be a spike, a second wave? We can only rely on the data from the countries who have reopened before us and use this to create the models we have all become so familiar with over the past few weeks.
All this is to slow the spread and see the curve bending toward a hopeful May 1st opening of the economy.
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