Goodbye Howard Cunningham And June Cleaver

Thursday, October 21, 2010

With the recent passing of Tom Bosley and Barbara Billingsley I just want to take a little time to reflect on their deaths. Both played television icons that will live on long after their deaths via televsion syndication, cable television, DVD sales, and overseas markets. How many Americans haven't at least heard of Happy Days and Leave It to Beaver, it they're not familar with the Howard Commingham and June Cleaver?

Both shows were set in the 50's and for lots of people including myself who wasn't born yet and didn't live through those years, these shows were and still are our window into that time period. Mr. C. (as Fonzi referred to him) was a role model of fatherhood for lots of people. While there are lots of jokes about how perfectly dressed June Cleaver was no matter what, her character defined how many people view mothers and the role of wives in society.

Life certainly appeared simpler on these shows than it has been since that time period. The problems faced by Richie and the gang an those of the Beaver seem downright simple compared to the problems and issues that we're facing today. This probably has a lot to do with a fondness that we have for the "Good Ole Days" and much of the desire to want to turn back the clock. Images depicted on those shows are very welcoming and reassuring. There is a civility and friendliness displayed between neighboors and people that you meet and people seemed to genuinely care about each other. Things were black and white without all the grey area that we have today with people doing all kinds of things that they should know in the back of their mind (or whereever their conscience is hiding) are wrong, and doing them anyways. You might even venture to say that this was the American Camelot.

Of course televison, movies, and books can choose to focus on certain things often ignoring others. Given the things that have happened since the 50's there was obviously a lot that was ignored or was brewing under the surface. There was not too much involvement of minorities in either of the shows and given America's melting pot image and demographics, there were plenty of minorities around even in the 50's. Equal rights and the role of women in the work place were not really takled other than being the sterotypical role of women being only mothers and wives. The taboo issues were never reallly touched and we never really saw a darker side of Howard and June, certainly there were areas where they would have both been flawed. You have to wonder how they would have dealt with some of the issues that seem to divide us today?

Much of life and attitudes in those shows are worth bringing back and if given a chance, I think that much of the American population would like to be able to return to the more simpler life of the 50's. In fact there are lots of politicians who have hijacked the "family values" theme for their own corroupt and warpped use. Americans would like to be able to trust their political and business leaders again, but that trust has been violated and a true return to honor in those fields seems like a long way off in the horizon (if it is there at all). Most leaders in that era did seem to genuinely care about their country and the American people as opposed to those today that seem to only be looking to line their pockets at any cost. You wouldn't have expected CEOs back then to get millions of dollars while shipping the jobs of their workforce off to the far corners of the world in the name of Shareholder value. Eisenhower warned the public about the Millitary Industrial Complex, you got to believe that he would not have started a War on Terror, or wasted taxpayer money so irresponsibibly as many of our leaders since.

Finally, I'd like to say goodbye to actors portraying Howard Cunningham and June Cleaver. You've created characters that many of us identify with in our window to that time period. There are lots of fond memories of your shows and the chacters you created will live on in our memories and new generations will continually be exposed and get to know those characters via methods that are probably not even conceived of yet today.

Photo Credit: "Oldsmobile Super 88" courtesy of straymuse.

Germany- 20 Years After Reunification

Sunday, October 3, 2010


October 3, 2010 marks Twenty Years that Germany has been reunified. I couldn't let this event pass without saying a few words. I'll try not to repeat too much of what I wrote last year in honor of the 20th Anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall and
German Reunification- Fall of the Berlin Wall 20 Years Later but as we get older we do sometimes repeat ourselves.

First of all you have to wonder where all the time has gone, can it really be twenty years now? We have two generations of people that were born after the event and have no idea of what it was like before. For these post German unification- Fall of the Berlin Wall generations, it must seem just plain stupid that we ever lived that way and that we put up with life being that way.

I never got to experience the East/West situation first hand because by the time that I had moved to Germany, and it had already been more than 10 years since it had all happened. I do remember how exciting it was that the Iron Curtain was falling down and all the hope that people felt. It seemed that if the Berlin Wall could fall and Germany was united again that anything was possible, what a great feeling that was, we could stand to have some optimism like that again!

The countries and people living behind the iron curtain were thrust into Western society and Captialism and while many joined wholeheartedly, many others were reluctanly pulled along. Can you imagine how much of a change that was for all those people that new nothing but life behind the Iron Curtain (and even those who were fortunate enough to taste life in the West)? I remember a scene from Moscow on the Hudson, a movie where Robin Williams is a circus performer from Russia and while performing in New York, he decides to defect. One scene in the movie his is flabergasted by the ceral selection in a local supermarket and is almost paralysed with having to make a choice. Can you imagine going from bread lines to being able to buy 100+ different breakfast cereals? On paper and in the back of our minds we think oh what a great change for these people, but for a lot of them the transition was not and is not easy, they're still people that have had to deal with some tremendous change.

Germany is in a bit of a bad position in the Europe that is emerging. West Germany was properous before with a strong economy. They were certainly glad that Germany was one country again and that they could travel around freely (how refreshing that had to feel for so many people!) but they probably had not idea of the financial costs that would come with welcoming the former East Germany in. In West Germany they've paid a lot of taxes because of the reunification and the various projects to develop East Germany. The jobs have not really lived up to what was hoped. Lots of jobs are continually drawn out of Germany into other former Iron Curtain countries where the labor costs are cheaper. So you have a population that has had to spend a lot of taxes on reunification, but business is not returning that investment into Germany. Something doesn't seem right about that!

I briefly saw a report on a daily morning show about a survey on how happy Germans were after 20 years of unification, the figures and the the questions asked seemed to echo much of what I had read in Germans Disappointed by Reunification, New Poll Shows. From the story just mentioned, it was pointed out that while many easten Germans felt exploited and that they didn't really get a good deal out of hte reunification, Manfred Guellner said that "western Germans have the feeling that they have simply footed the bill for eastern Germany". Since more than 1 Trillion dollars have been transfered from West to East since the reunification, you can understand why many might feel that way. Also, bear in mind that 1 Trillion dollars for Germany, a country much smaller than the U.S., 1 Trillion dollars is a lot of money, heck it should be considered a lot of money anywhere!

The Fall of the Berlin Wall, the Breakup of the Iron Curtain, and the German Reunification caught much of the world by surprise and it seems that our leaders didn't have too much time to recover and re-adjust before the current War on Terror. After all those years of the Cold War and all the money that was spent, there should have been more thought given to how the world should move on afterwards instead of getting drawn into another endless set of wars.

So on the 20th Anniversary of German Reunification, I wish to say congratulations to Germany and to all the people living in the former Iron Curtain. I'm glad that you got to breakaway from the awful Cold War era existance that you were living. I hope that we can find a good way forward, that you didn't just trade one form of oppression for another. Capitalism (and the Free Market) and our Democracies, need some sterring to keep us away from the iceberg on the horizon. I think that we'd all rather have choice than live under oppressive totalitarian regimes and freedom means more than being able to buy Coke or Pepsi at your local market.

You might also be interest in the post that I wrote about my trip to Dresden last year.

Photo credit: Market place view of the Dresden's famous Frauenkirche taken in August 2009