The Andy Griffith Show has some of the most beloved characters in television, even to this day. Mayberry, the fictional town where Sheriff Andy Taylor (Andy Griffith) worked, is the synonymous with the America “back when” that probably never really ever existed anywhere but in our hearts. Reality television has replaced the idyllic version of American life. Our entertainment now is replete with the warts and frailties of real human beings enhanced by screenwriters and producers that seem to find new ways daily to appeal to the worst in us. It’s not their fault, really: it’s ours; if we didn’t buy the stuff they wouldn’t sell it.
What I Really Mean is…
This is not a culture-bashing post–it’s an appeal for us all to try harder to be better. You see, it’s those characters in Mayberry that I think I love the most, rather than the fiction of white picket fences and simple times. The inhabitants of Mayberry are human, of course, in a corny and even simple way. It is art after all, and for art to appeal to a broad audience we have to take some artistic license. Shakespeare did it, Homer did it, Jane Austen, James Patterson, J.K. Rowling, Mary Shelly, Andy Weir, W.E.B. Griffin–all authors simplify and symbolize things to tell the story. You see, it’s the message delivered by the author in the story and it’s characters that’s important. Mayberry is therefore more symbolic than it is reflective. As it should be with art.
Why I Like Andy
I like Andy Taylor because of the qualities he embodies. In Andy we see a genuinely honest man who does his best to do his duty and raise his son. He values virtue, he works hard, he is tough when he needs to be and merciful when he should be. Andy is a friend to everyone, but nobody’s fool. He’s always looking out for others even when they don’t deserve it. He upholds the law, but not blindly. He has faults, and makes mistakes, but he forgives and forgets readily and never holds a grudge. When he does something to injure someone else, he does his best to make amends. He avoids cross words, and rarely raises his voice. He doesn’t allow indecency or vice into his life, but he doesn’t judge those who do. Andy Taylor is a good man.
No matter how symbolic, Mayberry was not isolated from the America of the day. Even in that small fictional town in North Carolina sometimes an ill wind blew in danger and vice. Sheriff Taylor dealt with domestic abuse, alcoholism, sexism, snobbery by the rich toward the poor, theft, and of course the ordinary human vices of avarice, greed, lust, pride, etc. The difference between other shows then and now is how Andy handled those issues, and how he rose above his own personal frailties to serve others. Frank Reagan (Tom Selleck) in Blue Bloods probably comes closest to Andy’s approach than any other modern character.
Why it Matters
Modern politics, be it in the public sphere or in the office, is honestly not terribly different than it ever has been. People are people, and always have been. If you don’t believe me, Google “political cartoons from ____” and fill in the year. During the founding of our Republic, there was no shortage of harsh and even disgraceful words between those who wanted a confederation of independent states, and those who wanted a republic. When debating issues of the day during the 19th century, men often settled disputes with pistols at 10 paces. In the 20th century it got now better–name calling, fear mongering, racism–all part of the public life of the country. In the 21st century, we’re about the same I suppose.
Sometimes, though, we forget that during the same time that men did terrible things to each other, men also did great and beautiful things as well. The same world where tyrants and criminals live is the same world inhabited by people who create art, industry, innovation, care for the earth and people around them, and yes, even characters like Andy Taylor.
Who I Want to Be
Andy Taylor is a fictional character, of course, but he’s the literary embodiment of the kind of man I’d like to be. In this troubled time, we need more men of character like Andy. We need to be the kind of person who seeks to serve others, who avoids the “glamour of evil” and is deliberate about what goes into their minds and hearts. For me, well, I want to be more like Andy.
Mickey is a consultant, author, and keynote speaker. He believes everyone can reach high levels of performance if inspired and led. During his 30 year US Air Force career Mickey commanded thousands of Airmen, managed portfolios worth billions of dollars, and worked with military, civil, and industry officials around the world. He is a Distinguished Graduate of the Eisenhower School at National Defense University in Washington DC.
Mickey is the author of seven books, including Leading Leaders: Inspiring, Empowering, and Motivating Teams, Mickey’s Rules for Leaders, and The Five Be’s: A Straightforward Guide to Life.