The Sunday morning show on CBS aired a piece today on Mount Airy, North Carolina, the small town that was the birthplace of Andy Griffith and that styles itself after the bucolic setting of the Andy Griffith show, Mayberry. The show ended fifty years ago, but many tourists still travel to Mount Airy to take part in the nostalgic ambiance of the place. That’s easy to understand. The show portrayed an idealized version of small-town America. Mayberry didn’t completely exclude glimpses of the darker sides of life, but wholesomeness, honesty, and faith always prevailed. It’s hard to imagine a better place for a kid like Opie to grow up. Actually, it’s not just hard to imagine; it’s impossible.

Ted Koppel conducted the interviews for CBS. He asked the mayor of Mount Airy about the political sentiments of the visiting tourists, and the mayor diplomatically allowed that the prevailing attitudes in town might lean less towards Biden and more towards Trump. Then Mr. Koppel interviewed some of the tourists on a tour bus, perfect well behaved and law-abiding, middle-class citizens as you might expect. Most of the group said nothing, but a few did express their feelings. Some jumped at the chance. Mr. Koppel asked if they thought the last presidential election had been fair. Two or three people spoke up and said they did not, and one asserted vehemently that there had been “lots of voter fraud”. Mr. Koppel asked about the January 6th. Incident at the capital. Everybody who spoke seemed to think that riot had been somehow excusable especially, one man said, because of all the rioting and burning that takes place “every day” in America. Mr. Koppel asked how they felt about journalists like himself, and a woman stated that the media was seen by her as somehow being enemies of her way of life or words to that effect.

It’s always best to take a long view and avoid commenting directly on political figures like Biden or Trump. In that way, we stay clear of the current political theater that has so many good Americans at war with each other, and we may safely leave Donald Trump’s policies to be judged by history. However, his demeanor and its effects on his supporters may fairly be judged by us. Donald Trump’s combative style is unhelpful. His pugilistic personality has been forged in all the financial and legal battles he has faced in the past forty years. If someone sued him, he invariably counter-sued.

We may sympathize with that approach to some extent. It is often ineffective to enable our detractors by simply turning the other cheek. It’s sometimes more effective to give back what you get, kindness for kindness, lawsuit for lawsuit. This is known as the Platinum Rule. But the concept can certainly be overused and overdone. It requires thoughtful and judicious usage.

The problem is that Donald Trump seems to have somehow ingrained the impulse to lash out into all levels of American society, the highest and the lowest, even in situations in which the Golden Rule would work even better and be more effective. In politics and polite society, a more diplomatic and conciliatory approach is often required.

These days, instead of accepting our neighbors for who they are (flaws and all), many people, on both sides of the political spectrum, have taken Donald Trump’s lead too much to heart. They express disdain every time they see the merest hint of anything with which they do not agree. Take, for example, the way many, on both sides of the political spectrum, have weaponized the word “agenda”. Anything they don’t like is demonized as being part of some hypothetically “agenda”.

Proposed: Let’s let everybody have their opinions and cut each other some slack. At the very least, when meeting with a disagreeable person, pick up a fishing pole and walk away whistling the show’s theme song. Or, as a first step, why not get together with our neighbors and watch some Mayberry reruns? Mayberry was a comedy after all.

Here’s an idea. For a really good laugh let’s imagine Donald Trump in Mayberry. He probably would have been civil and considerate of Aunt Bea’s feelings, but just imagine him being stuck there for an extended stay, like for a summer vacation. That would have made a good episode, but at the end of the episode, Donald Trump would have had to learn a few things about humility.