The Union Recorder

Columns

July 13, 2013

ROWLAND: Fragile: Handle with care

MILLEDGEVILLE — If you know me well, then you know that I am a big fan of the Andy Griffith Show. They just don’t make television programs like that anymore. Many moral lessons have been taught through the interactions of some of the great characters in television history.

There has never been a better straight man than Barney Fife. And how about Briscoe Darling, the Darling Boys, Charlene and Dud Wash? And who could forget Earnest T. Bass? And my personal favorite, and the namesake of my 115 pound chocolate lab, Otis the town drunk.

Floyd Lawson, the barber, and Aunt Bea were as common a household names as Mr. Clean and Betty Crocker. No matter how many times I see an episode, the funny parts make me laugh, and I always learn my lesson.

Some of the most powerful dialogue in television history, however, occurred between Andy and Opie. My favorite episode of all time was titled “Opie the Birdman.”

In this episode, Barney helps Opie make a homemade slingshot. Andy warns Opie to be careful with it, but while shooting a rock into a tree, Opie kills a mother song bird leaving behind three little birds to raise.

Andy finds the dead bird in the Griffith yard and later attributes its death to the neighbor’s cat. Aunt Bea reminds Andy that the neighbor has been out of town and took her cat with her.

Fraught with guilt, Opie leaves the evening supper table without touching his food. Andy immediately knows what has happened, and he confronts Opie about his transgression.

Opie tells Andy that he is sorry, and Andy points out that being sorry won’t bring those baby song birds’ mother back. Andy goes on to point out to Opie that being sorry isn’t some magic word that makes everything right.

Hold onto that thought. I’ll come back to it.

I have been following the Paula Dean affair in the press with great interest. In case you have been vacationing on the moon for the past month, you all know by now that Paula has gotten herself into a little public hot water over admitting that she used racial slurs in the past.

Sponsors dropped her like a hot potato and her personal appearances on network television only served to make her seem a little insincere. Of course, the American media loves a good scandal, so they managed to keep this story alive through more news cycles than Carter’s has little pills.

Let me be clear. There is no place for racism of any nature in our world today. It happens. We all know it, but that doesn’t make it right.

Unfortunately, what happened to Paula has happened to a lot of us … no matter the color of our skin.

We work all of our lives to have others believe good things about us … to develop trust and establish relationships … to cultivate respect and rapport. And in one split second of poor decision-making, it can all be destroyed.

I think this is one of life’s hardest lessons to learn, and no matter how old I get, I just never seem to get over how the consequences of my own behavior can be so destructive so quickly. To quote Andy, “Being sorry isn’t the magic word that makes everything right.”

So, if Paula has reminded me of only one thing, it is that reputations are fragile. Perhaps we should do more to protect the only one we have.

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