My friend Tom said that for a public truth to be commonly understood there has to be a story about it that is commonly shared. What makes public truth so controversial these days is that we don’t have a common story with which to share it. We did not so many decades ago. It was the white middle class story of the American Dream. I don’t think it’s well understood how powerful it was.
What was the story, and who told it? It started on radio, morphed into television, and was told in half hour time slots that described what it was like to live the American Dream. The Life of Riley, Father Knows Best, Ozzie and Harriet, Leave it to Beaver. Beulah, featuring a black cook/maid who secretly ran the white household, made the point that it was possible for the middle class to have black servants. What about Amos N Andy? Middle class blacks, should there be any, spoke funny, were befuddled, a little corrupt, and belonged in the inner city, not the suburbs. The Honeymooners? Not everyone could make it, but they did what they could to imitate it.
Few adults remember these shows with clarity, but when they talk about the American Dream, the image in their minds is drawn from these shared stories describing what was believed as a public truth. Was it really true? “See The USA in Your Chevrolet,” and find out for yourself.
We need a new story. What should it be and who should tell it? There isn’t a consistent theme in today’s t.v. shows. Besides, the entire nation doesn’t tune in on Thursday nights. at 7:00 to watch XXXX. It has to be a story of the American Dream that every person of every color and persuasion can say, “That American Dream is my American Dream.”
So, if you were telling the story, what would it be? Remember, it has to fit in a half hour time slot.