Deep within Mayberry lore is an episode of “The Andy Griffith Show” in which Sheriff Taylor tells his son Opie why it is so important to not run away from trouble.
It seemed that Opie, who looked to be no more than 7 years old at that particular time, was having his lunch money stolen by a bully each morning on his walk to school. It was an older student who would confront Opie on the street and threaten to beat him up if he didn’t deliver.
Well, if Andy’s subsequent advice to the lad had adhered to the policies of today’s educational system, he would have told Opie to basically turn the other cheek. Or Opie might have been advised to report the bully to the principal — anything but dealing with the crisis in a more-appropriate head-on manner.
After all, as I understand it, public schools operate under a policy in which both kids involved in a fight get suspended from class — even if one was getting picked on and simply defended himself (or herself). That is the dumbest policy I have ever heard of, which totally contradicts the basic human instinct of survival.
It also does not conform to our legal system that gives someone the right to use even deadly force in cases of self-defense.
And if the American Way reflected such a policy of capitulation, we’d all probably be speaking German or Japanese today. Thankfully, we responded to threats from countries such as Nazi Germany and its allies not by being passive — but with displays of superior military strength.
So is being passive to a threat what we should be teaching our children, given the far-reaching implications?
That certainly wasn’t the mindset of Sheriff Andy Taylor in that long-ago episode when he told Opie what to do about the bully — which involved fighting back. Andy wasn’t direct in his approach but delivered the advice in the form of a parable, which often was his custom.
He told Opie about his own tale of bullying, which involved Young Andy being threatened not to use a certain fishing hole by a bigger youth. Andy didn’t opt to run away, telling Opie that the pain of any busted lip or bloody nose would be far outweighed by the anguish of knowing he didn’t take up for himself against the bully.
“So I lit into him like a windmill in a tornado,” Andy related to Opie during their conversation, which just happened to occur while the two were fishing that same place.
“What happened, Pa?” Opie asked, anxious to hear the outcome.
“Well, we’re in this spot today, ain’t we?” Andy replied.
Thus the message was clear that Opie should light into his own bully like a windmill, which he later did, receiving a black eye. But in the long run it was a badge of courage far more meaningful than a temporary injury.
Andy’s whole take was that he didn’t want Opie starting a fight — yet he sure as heck didn’t want him to run from one, either.
Something I hear over and over is how “The Andy Griffith Show” serves as a guide for teaching life’s lessons and as a model for rearing children. So if I had my way, every school administrator in this nation would be locked into a room and forced to watch that particular episode over and over until they finally “get it.”
That episode came to mind earlier this week when Surry County was hit with a rash of armed robberies, ironically as the annual Mayberry Days was set to unfold in celebration of a way of life rarely invaded by such violence.
Yes, you visitors to Mount Airy for Mayberry Days, you might be shocked to learn that we do have our share of crimes as other communities do. In fact, things got so bad with unsolved murders, drug rings, fencing operations and other mayhem during the 1970s and 1980s that this city was commonly referred to as Little Chicago. But that’s a subject for another day.
The reason I drew a parallel between Andy’s bullying advice and the recent armed robberies was the response one store owner had to the situation. When her business, the Cupboard No. 2 in White Plains, was hit by the robbers Sunday night, Teresa Smith was prepared due to having multiple firearms on hand.
Since her husband was being held at gunpoint by one of the robbers, Teresa pretty much had no choice but to give them her cash. But once he was out of the line of fire, she shot at the thugs, who naturally beat a hasty retreat out the doorway where a bullet hole now remains.
Now, I don’t condone violence — but I do believe in people taking appropriate steps to protect themselves in a given set of circumstances. In other words, I would rather see an innocent storekeeper fight fire with fire than to have that business owner killed in cold blood because he or she took a passive approach instead.
The moral of the story is that criminals aren’t going to choose not to rob someone simply because that’s the right thing to do. They are going to do so out of fear they might get shot through the head for their trouble. It’s called respect — a necessary condition whether you’re talking about the schoolyard, U.S. military strength or protecting oneself from crime.
As usual, Sheriff Andy had it right.
Tom Joyce is a staff reporter for The Mount Airy News. He can be reached at 719-1924 or firstname.lastname@example.org.