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.”
Crisis is calling in South Sudan, and Concern Worldwide needs your help
Parts of South Sudan are experiencing extreme hunger. Read about one organization’s mission to change that.
Food is one of life’s necessities, but when there’s enough of it to go around, it can seem more like a commodity. That’s because many of us have never experienced what it’s like to go hungry. Earlier this year, the United Nations and the South Sudan government declared famine in two counties in South Sudan, as the country was gripped by an unprecedented and rapidly-growing food crisis. After a swift humanitarian response, a recent report declared South Sudan free of famine — but that doesn’t mean the hunger crisis is over. 2 million still remain threatened by starvation, a number that could soon rise to 6 million. As a result of a years-long civil war, skyrocketing inflation rates, massive debt, and rising food prices, the country has spiraled into a critical state of emergency. And the citizens can’t reverse it alone.
In one of the country’s hardest hit areas, Northern Bahr el Ghazal, 59% of the population is experiencing dire food shortages. That has led to and continues to prompt related problems that threaten the prosperity of this vulnerable country. Food shortages have resulted in rampant malnutrition, and those most at risk include an estimated quarter of a million children who will face severe acute malnutrition, the most dangerous and life-threatening form of hunger. With violence and displacement forcing some the country’s few health facilities to close, those in need of medical attention are forced to find the remaining clinics, which are not properly equipped with basic medicine and staff.
Without immediate help and response, the country of South Sudan will plunge further into disaster and families will continue to suffer and die from hunger. That’s why organizations like Concern Worldwide are calling for action. Concern Worldwide is a Guidestar Gold-rated international aid agency that currently has 300 responders in South Sudan reaching 700,000 people in desperate need.
Even before famine was declared, 4.9 million were already in urgent need of food, and Concern Worldwide was working to reach them. The road to recovery is not one that immediate humanitarian efforts alone can build, but one that requires maintaining and supporting a long-term commitment to aid. But change can start with you. South Sudan is still in desperate need, and Concern Worldwide is making it easy to send a small donation that can make a world of difference. 92c of every dollar donated gets put to work in the field, making Concern the one of the most efficient and trustworthy NGOs of its size. Just $30 provides emergency food to save the life of a malnourished child. You have the power to help give the men, women, and children of South Sudan a second chance at a happy, hunger-free life.
We need your help! Follow this link to Concern Worldwide to lend a helping hand to the urgent food crisis.