tv Talk to Al Jazeera Al Jazeera December 30, 2014 5:30pm-6:01pm EST
l see you next time. in washington, i'm ray suarez. >> today on "talk to al jazeera" jazeera," norman lear , political activist and war veteran. >> who knows, god could be a woman, a president who would help us look in the mirror and see ourselves honestly. >> he is the man behind the iconic is it sit-coms of the 1970s
"all in the family." >> i was the laziest white kid my father ever met. >> in total, lear wrote produced produced. >> we don't know what the episode is all about. oh, it's about abortion. >> lear has left his mark on american politics. founding people for the american way and he's fought against religious fundamentalism. >> what can i say about jerry fallwell. i was the number one enmy in the generation. >> in his 90-plus years he has lived a multitude of lives. one of those lives as a bomber in world war ii. >> americans love america. but there was a time after world war ii when we were in love with america. >> i had a chance to speak with norman
lear, of all of this, and his thoughts of being a father of six, he tells about his recent book, all this i get to experience. >> you have tackled issues of racism, home owes phobia, did you set out being a trail playser? >> i didn't think of it as being a trail blazer. it was american life. we were the family of people, my family, other people that joined when we went into television were all members of families. they read newspapers, what impacted them directly in their families was the grist for our mill. what impacted them in the outer world became grift grist for our mill also. >> the issues you talked about in these tv shows, no one talked about them publicly on television before.
they became aing a fabric of our culture. when did you realize they were impacting us? >> they were impacting families before they impacted the culture. what were we going to work with? were we going to make up a story about the roast is ruined and the boss is coming for dinner, or the kid came home crying and realized it was our fault or whatever. >> let's start with "all in the family." so groundbreaking. you said that archie bunker's character was based on your father. did your father seem like a racist? >> it didn't represent my father, he was not what he was doing he would shout at me and i
was the dumbest white kid he'd ever met. to that degree when i read about "to death us do part" the british show, not exactly the way archie, you know, the takeoff point was, my father's i don't even like to use the word bigotry, he just -- progress, he was -- he was concerned. >> opinionated? >> and afraid about progress. he was everywhere where the grass was green and knew everything. >> what was it like to grow up in that kind of household with someone that was so opinionated? >> it wasn't easy but i think it's generally hard to be a human being. i don't care what the -- you know how one was born, it is hard to be a human being.
harder, for many, quite obviously, across the globe but hard in any event, no matter the circumstance of birth. just to be a human being. >> you wrote in your book i'm going to paraphrase it a little bit here, but if your father had a screw that you could turn it a little bit and maybe help him figure out the difference between right and wrong, your father was you know, arrested for selling phony bonds as well. did that -- he was serving three years in prison. that absence i can imagine that had a profound impact on you. >> when you're nine years old and your father goes off and your mother sells the furniture and you're living with an uncle and uncle and grandparents and your mother and sister, she was younger, someplace, i don't know where, i would say yeah, that would have an effect on a kid. >> do you wish you could have
turned that screw and prevented him from doing what he did? >> i would have liked to have done that. but on the other hand, i'm sitting here on with you on a comfortable moment. i might as well be happy everything that occurred to get here. >> your mother. >> my mother. >> what was she like? >> my mother. i can best illustrate my mother by telling you that when i called her at 60-something, my age, to tell her that i had just -- that the academy was just starting a hall of fame and they had announced to me secretly the first inductees were going to be william paley who started cbs, david sarnoff, the greatest of the foreign correspondents
pagddy chaefsky conditioned milton berle and me she said to me, listen, if that's what they want to do, who am i to say? that's my mother. that should tell you everything. >> "all in the family" for a moment. i'm a little younger. >> are you? >> i didn't see the originals, but i loved the show. i remember the ing episode where archie bunker repeatedly used the word fag. why use that word so many times in one episode? >> came from the fact that that was the word that one would hear in the schoolyard, around the subway, you didn't have to know the people who were talking if they passed you in the street
and you might hear the word. so it wasn't like we were reaching for something. it was the culture and the vocabulary. and we used them. >> did that show open a conversation and a dialogue in this country that hadn't happened before? >> you know what i've learned? every episode for people opened the conversation. because i go through life hearing people tell me all the time, and afterwards we talked we talked, we talked, my father was like that, or wasn't like that, my uncle was, but people talked. and if a play is going to do anything after it has made people laugh, the best thing is having them talk. so we hoped we would -- we were delivering real characters the way we knew them in life. >> maud got
her own television show, modern woman like "all in the family" the issues were controversial, things that hadn't been talked about before. the same issue where maude considering having an abortion putting you in the cross hairs of the religious right. how did you handle that? >> very well. like any other show, let's turn on maude, we don't know what the episode is about, oh it's about abortion. that's the way the american families and american people handled it. nothing happened, i'm sure there were some letters but there was no big stir because we had done a show on the subject. time. but after, when the show went into reruns come april, may, by then the religious right said oh that show's coming back they're going to be rerunning that. then they were ready. then they made all the noise.
>> the theme song itself was controversial, it talked about god being a woman, right? >> was that controversial? who knows, god to be a woman. you know, no -- i mean it's very interesting that nobody's come back to tell us. we just don't know. >> what do we know about god? ha >> ha ha. i think what people know about god is, comes from the way they've been raised. and i think they should honor it the way they do. but it should live within the family. within the church. within the pew, within the individual's compact and they are all different with their creator, god, the designer whatever anybody cares to call the entity responsible for all of this. and i don't know that there is or isn't. so i'm perfectly willing to go
along with anybody who thinks there is. but i think -- i'm not -- i've not better than here before, by the way. you've taken me to a place in this interview that i haven't been before. >> i told you it would be the best interview you have ever been on. >> it is. the subject interests me. i think it's the best subject going. >> coming up norman lear talks about politics, criticism of president obama and religion. what he has to say about fundamentalists. there's more to finical news than the ups and downs of the dow. for instance, could striking workers in greece delay your retirement? i'm here to make the connections to your money real.
was gone >> are we prescribing an epidemic? >> the last thing drug companies wanted anybody to think was that, this was a prescribing problem >> fault lines al jazeera america's hard hitting... >> today they will be arrested... >> ground breaking... they're firing canisters of gas at us... award winning investigative documentary series... opioid wars only on al jazeera america >> i'm adam may, you're watching "talk to al jazeera." our guest this week is norman lear. do we have an issue right now when it comes to religion and the infill strayings we have into our politics? >> i think we have a huge problem about religion, that comes from that narrow band, or bands, i should say, because it's not one band, it's -- those narrow bands of fundamentalists, i don't use that, using that in
the literal sense, not a religious sense, fundamentalists who say they know the way and if you don't know the way, god out. there are several -- there are many fundamentalist bands who think that way, they're entitled that. i fought a war for that. let them think what they wish to think. but that's the kind of thinking that wants to be for the people who believe it and not insist in a country that says there shall be no mixture of politics and religion. we specifically, you know, from the constitution forward, prohibit the mixture of politics and religion. and so religion wants to be in one's heart and soul. that compact with the almighty. any 200 people sitting in the
same pew reading from the same sacred text, each have it's compact is different anyway. in articulabley different. >> why did jerry fallwell? >> away iwhat can i say about jerry fallwell? i didn't accept god his way, and because the shows i was doing dealt with subjects he felt should not be dealt with. like life. >> you're a history are buff you owned a copy of the declaration of independence. what do you think the founding fathers would say about the television you produced? >> i think founding fathers would have found it very interesting.
the television shows i produced. as a matter of fact, fathers starting with my own, is a major theme of my life. looking for the father that, in a sense, deserted, or at nine years of age. but father has been a very big word in my life, and i think founding fathers and the declaration , that's a big glorious bouquet in my life. >> let's talk about your organization. you founded people for the american way 35 years ago. the mission statement says among other things that our america respects diversity, nurtures create ivity and hates bigotry.
does our america do that today? >> bigotry is alive and well in the human species. we can only recently see what can be done in the lgbt cause. civilization can take a giant leap forward as it just did. we need a few more giant leaps forward. >> what other areas? >> the area of race, i don't think we settled the racial problems in this country, they still exist. >> you're very hopeful that president barack obama would make a big impact on that issue. i've read that you're disappointed in him. >> well, i don't know whether you -- in what context you read that. but in the context we're talking about, the fact of his presidency for eight years historically will have been is now a giant step forward.
talk about having made a step forward on an issue. when he was first elected, that couldn't have been -- it was an amazing extent forward. now comes the -- it shows that mind. >> what are your criticisms of the president? >> i wanted the country to have a father. i wanted the country -- i wanted a president who would help us look in the mirror and see ourselves honestly. i wanted a president who would have the inner -- didn't need the flag pin. he just had to help us understand who we were as americans. which is to say, my bumper sticker reads just another version of you. we are just another version of everybody else. and i think he had all of the intellect and knowledge and
everything else to have helped us with that. >> you're a very liberal person. was -- is he not liberal enough, not progressive enough? >> i -- i don't know. the country needs a father. in every sense of the word. and a father helps you understand your own humanity. and my idea of a father. who you are as a human being, we need to know who we are as americans. and we don't have the help anywhere in the establishment. the president is an individual. but we have individuals in your media. and, you know, you could ask the question, how good a job is the media doing helping a country that depends on an informed citizenry, understand what it well. >> do you believe the news media is failing this country? >> i -- yes, i do.
i believe the news media goes at this level and far faster than i'm going. and doesn't give us the context we need. >> you served our country in world war ii. you're a member of the greatest generation. how did that impact the work you did in entertainment? >> well, you know, i see a difference between being in love with something and loving something. i think america loves america. i mean, americans love america. but there was a time, after world war ii, when we were in love with america. we were in love with the promises that were -- you know that are worded in that declaration of independence, and the bill of rights and so forth. we were in love with all those promises.
we won world war ii, which was a giant coming from nowhere and nothing, to manage to win that war. and then we invented the marshal plan to help europe, we did that job. >> you personally were in a b-17 bomber. >> yes. >> front lines of combat really. that had to shape your world view. >> well, that's another long story. it did shape my world view, i guess. i flew 52 missions over germany. and i don't think they could have gotten me in the plane if i hadn't lived so many lives before that. i don't know if you have the time for this but -- >> tell me. what do you mean? >> but, you know, by the time i, at 20 or 21, by the time i enlisted i had lived a life with
my -- as a kid with my mother and father. i had lived a life with my sister. i had lived a life in nursery school, in public school, i lived a life in my civics class, in my chemistry crub, in club in my stamp club, an early life in the military. by the time they threw a flak jacket at me, and said, get in that plane they're going to shoot at you in the air and from the ground. by the time that had happened i had lived so many lives that i couldn't imagine there wouldn't be more. >> did you fear death? >> yes, i fear death. >> you prayed up there. >> i prayed up there. >> in a unique way. tell me about that. >> i had a picture in my back pocket of my wife. my wallet. and i used to touch it and touch my lips.
that was -- and i don't remember what was going on in my head. i don't remember that -- nobody has ever asked me that question but that was kind of what i was doing. everybody had some other little thing they were doing. and on my very first -- i was due to fly several times before we actually took off, because of weather. but we went through all the motions. and my greatest friend,ye , jimmy edwards was a gunner like i was. after that first mission we were supposed to fly we touched down after breakfast, went to the latrine, and it happened the second time. and as soon as it happened the second time it was a superstition. like guys wore the same clothing or the same underwear or touched the picture, or everybody had
this is the moment that i'm enjoying. then everything it took to get here was what it took to get here. so i don't like living in regret. i see clearly, i could have done better. if i had it to do over again would i do better? regretting. >> thank you for the television you have put on the air, thank you so much. >> your you're welcome. >> from stage to screen oscar nominated actor ethan hawk >> the theatre has always bee my first love... >> separating art & politics >> if you have an agenda with people... you sometimes don't see the truth >> and the lifelong influence of his mother >> she was worried i was gonna be a spoiled brat and not see how complicated the world was >> every monday,
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