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"Chronicle Groupie"
Hyperion June 22, 2001

#48 Potpourri, Volume 3

We surely live in an age of sarcasm, but have you ever noticed how poorly sarcasm translates over the written word? Sarcasm depends on voice inflection, which is impossible to get across in black and white. I know that I personally have had a few misunderstandings with written letters where I was joking and I was taken seriously because there was no context. Therefore, I propose a solution. In the Windows operating system, up at the top there are three buttons, B, I, and U, which stand for Bold, Italic, and Underlined. I suggest we add an S to the bar, so that we can highlight our text as sarcastic, thus avoiding countless hurt feelings, and possibly bringing on World Peace.

Because some would call me depraved, I made up a question to ask people, judging them more by the way they answered then the content. The question is this: “What would surprise you more, to find out your mother was a child molester, or that she could not read?” My own unscientific results have found that most people would be more shocked to find out that their mom could not read. I am not sure what to make of that. I guess the literacy campaign is working. And for those of you who insist on getting offended at everything I write, it is just a joke.

I wish someone would come up with a better name for American Indians. The Indian name is inappropriate: it came about because Columbus mistakenly thought he had sailed to India when in fact he only made it to the Caribbean. Native Americans seems equally wrong, since America was not founded until 1776, and these people were here long before that. I would give a pretty penny to someone who could coin a better term.

When I was writing my third Timothy McVeigh column, I tried to track down a quote by Albert Camus, which I felt would be the perfect opening. I spent nearly fourteen hours looking for the quote, and in that time, I came to learn everything I ever wanted to know about Camus. I certainly had not planned it that way, but I am glad for the learning. I guess you could call that “Accidental Knowledge”, that which we learn while trying to find something else. Despite the state motto of South Carolina, learning is always a good thing, even when it comes about accidentally. As you go through life, look for these opportunities to enrich yourself on a subject you might never have ventured into.

Finally, I noted with some sadness that Carroll O’Connor died this week. He will forever be known as Archie Bunker. For those of you under thirty, Archie was the main character for a groundbreaking sitcom called “All in the Family”, which debuted in 1971. Archie was a sexist, racist bigot, and certainly broke the mold on Sitcom Dads, who up to that point had generally been benign. I watch old “All in the Family” shows with wonder; they could never make a show like that now. The views Archie expressed would cause a riot in today’s day and age. Back in 1971, though, America was going through many changes. Things we take for granted now were not assumed then, as far as race, sex, and ethnicity went. By casting Archie as an irascible bigot, the writers of the show could point out the flaws in those views. No one could watch that show and seriously think that Archie was correct in anything he thought; it would just be unbelievable. Yet, Archie was not evil, just very ignorant. I think this show uniquely allowed America to exorcise the demons of all the Archie’s out there, and pass them off as uneducated and myopic.

Perhaps the closest thing we have today is Homer Simpson. Homer is an idiot, who does stupid things on a daily basis. Children’s Services would never allow such a man to raise children. Yet again, as those who watch the “Simpson’s” know, Homer definitely loves his wife and children, and usually makes the right decision eventually, bumbling as it may be. The “Simpson’s” started of as a show about the counter-culture; Bart, the ten year old, was the main star, and he stood for rebellion. As the show progressed, however, it became more a reflecting pool about our own society. Steeped in satire and irony as no show ever has been, the "Simpson's" gives us a mirror of our culture, albeit a warped one. The Simpsons are an All-American family, plagued with problems, hanging by a thread, but sticking together nonetheless.

Perhaps that is what Carroll O’Connor was able to do with Archie. He gave us this man with horrible views, but the dirty secret is that a lot of Americans thought like Archie did at that time. Over the years of “All in the Family”, Archie’s character was forced to recognize that not every black man was a crook, that not every Jewish man was a money hoarder, that not every woman was useless outside the home. Perhaps the show, set in sitcom land with plenty of ready-made laughs, allowed America to see that as well.

Catch you on the open trail,

June 22, 2001


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