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Last Friday, John Aravosis over at America blog posted this newly released tape of Richard Nixon and his henchmen having a candid, if not really sadly misinformed, conversation about All in the Family and the terror it introduced to their twisted concept of that period's zeitgeist.
Nixon: CBS came on with a movie. They had two magnificent handsome guys, and a stupid old fellow in it. They were glorifying homosexuality!If you are unfamiliar with this show that ran from 1971-1979, it basically revolved around a family living in Queens. The patriarch, Archie Bunker, was portrayed as an embittered right winger unable to cope with the cultural changes taking place around him. The character is an ultra-conservative bigot's bigot, an anti-intellectual who is given to ranting and raving his absurd views. Tension is created between him and his son-in-law, Mike Stivic, an unapologetic liberal activist who is married to Archie's daughter, Gloria, a burgeoning feminist herself. This durm und strang swirls around Archie's wife, the lovably simple and kind Edith Bunker, whose innate sense of decency holds the family together. It was a remarkable show for its generation, fearlessly tackling the social and political upheaval of the times and introducing subject matter never before seen on the television. It did so with a decidedly liberal bent, deftly dismantling the right wing, reality-defying windmills that the teabagger crowd still tilts at to this day.
Ehrlichman: Was that a panel, sir?
Nixon: Hell no, it was a movie!
Haldeman: No, that’s a regular show, it’s on every week. And usually it’s just set in the guy’s home. It’s usually just that guy, who’s a hardhat.
Nixon: That’s right, he’s a hard hat.
Ehrlichman: And he always just looks like a slob.
Nixon: Looks like Jackie Gleason.
Haldeman: And then he has this hippie son-in-law. And, uh, usually the general trend of it is to downgrade him, and upgrade…
Nixon: Upgrade the hippie son-in-law.
Haldeman: Make the square hardhat to be bad.
Ehrlichman: What’s it called, I’ve never seen it.
Nixon: Archie is the guy’s name.
Ehrlichman: Now that’s real family entertainment, isn’t it?
Nixon: The point that I make is that goddamit, I do not think that you glorify, on public television, homosexuality! You ever see what happened, you know what happened to the Greeks? Homosexuality destroyed them. Aristotle was a homo, we all know that. So was Socrates.
Ehrlichman: But he never had the influence that television has.
Nixon: The last six Roman emperors were fags. You see, homosexuality, immorality in general, these are the enemies of strong societies. That’s why the communists and the left-wingers are pushing it. They’re trying to destroy us.
The response to the show taking place between Nixon, Ehrlichman and Haldeman is something LGBT people across generations understand immediately. It is all still very much recognizable to us today. Unable to examine their philosophy and face up to the reasons a diverse nation consistently rejects them is a hallmark of the conservative. They are just as rabid today as they were back in the day.
The conversation between these men is pretzel logic at its finest. They start out by discussing a trending show they clearly know nothing about, yet irritates them on principle. Movie, television program, book, it didn't matter. It dared resonate with the masses and so garnered their aggravated attention and must be burnt with fire. In an unguarded moment, the President of our United States gives us insight into his frustrated impotency. It must be denounced out of hand and a scapegoat deployed. And, as happens so often with these people, the scapegoat of choice is that fabulous Kraken "The Fag".
Never mind that the complexities that brought about the fall of Rome had little to do with a problem with teh gays. Never mind that our country was mired at the same time in mud not unlike Rome's. Nixon immediately went there because he really had no where else to go. In his sick mind, it was butt sex what was doing us in, not corruption or war or religious conflict. It was his right wing deflection kicking in like a placebo.
Fast forward ahead to the rhetoric we have endured this past decade as our fight for equality has gained headwind. Beginning with the Prop 8 fight and drudging through to its conclusion at the Supreme Court, the ugly head of Nixonian logic reared its ugly head again and again like the Whack-a-Mole game.
The difference is, that this time we are winning the good fight, not in the court of conservative public opinion on some television show, but in the actual court.