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Every week on “Make Me Smart,” we ask an expert, celebrity, author or other prominent figure: “What’s something you thought you knew but later found out you were wrong about?” It’s called the Make Me Smart question.
This week, we hear from legendary TV producer Norman Lear, the creator behind some of America’s most popular sitcoms, including “All in the Family,” “One Day at a Time” and “The Jeffersons.” Lear served in World War II as a radio operator-gunner on a B-17.
I didn’t or wouldn’t — if anybody had asked me — have said that I was capable of murder. And I was capable for 35 instances that I can recount because I flew missions, I was a radio operator-gunner on a B-17 in World War II. … I was the guy who got up a little bit out of his chair and leaned over to let the pilot know that the last bomb had left the bay, and he could close the doors. That was my role, every mission. So I saw our bombs leave the bomb bay. And then I saw them gather with all the bombs from around the other planes flying in our squadron. I’d watch hundreds of bombs falling. And I recall thinking each time, what if all those bombs, one of them, seven of them, miss a target? What if they hit a farm house? And I even imagined the family sitting around a table. And if I could say, “F— it,” I would say that, but I know I’m on radio. But that’s the way I felt. Within hours, flying back to the base and everything else, I recall so well, asking myself, if somebody came to me with a piece of paper and a pencil and said, “Mr. Lear, if you sign this, you will forever mean that.” I know, like I know my name, I would never sign such a piece of paper. But the fact is for a moment, I did, which tells me we are all capable of the worst and the best, the most transcendent behavior, the worst evil.
You can share your answer to the Make Me Smart question by leaving us a voicemail at 508-U-B-SMART or email a voice memo to email@example.com.
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