Mayberry was a fictional community made famous by “The Andy Griffith Show” in the 1960s. Although it represented an idealized version of rural life, it resonated with many people and had some legitimacy as a portrayal of a real community.

Life has changed drastically in the ensuing 50 years, so much so that people would just laugh if anyone pretended Mayberry depicted a basis for reality today.

Sheriff Andy Taylor was the star of the television show. He never wore a gun and he only allowed his deputy, Barney Fife, to carry a gun as long as he kept the single bullet in his shirt pocket. Sheriff Taylor was there to serve and protect, always interacting with community members.

Police have changed over the decades since. In recent years, departments have been receiving recycled military gear. More recently, the present administration rolled back some modest restrictions on the program, meaning local departments can get items such as Blackhawk helicopters, machine guns, explosives, grenade launchers, body armor, even tanks.

Those items won’t end up in our rural communities, which are much closer to the Mayberry ideal with law enforcement typically interacting with residents as part of a community. However cities with as few as 20,000 residents have requested and received the military equipment. It is hard to fathom why such small cities would need military equipment.

The consequence may appear to be a safer city, but when units show up to an incident looking more like combat troops than peace officers that sends a message.

There is no denying that law enforcement face uncertain threats, with drug-crazed individuals, terrorists and violent protestors that make every situation, even in seemingly harmless surroundings, potentially treacherous. Yet, is that fear leading to overreaction, which in turn leads to fear of police by citizens?

Sheriff Taylor isn’t the only relic of the past. Fear has also changed adult-youth relationships today.

Many service organizations that interact with youth now have mandatory youth protection training. Much of it is common sense, but many clubs require that no fewer than three people should be together with a youth — meaning a minimum of two adults, preferably, or two youth and one adult need to be present in a vehicle or other place at all times.

The fear isn’t that some adult is going to impulsively harm a youth if the two are alone. The reason for the policy is so there is no chance of a misunderstanding or false accusation leading to involvement of law enforcement. People are quick to judge if something surfaced, which could lead to a tarnished reputation or worse.

That mistrust, even when rationally explained, has to make at least a subtle impact on relationships among people of different ages in a community.

Fear even drives us while we drive, it seems.

A recent news story in the Star Tribune based on research and interviews showed few Minnesotans dare to honk their horns at other drivers. Part of it is Minnesota nice, a cultural heritage passed on through generations.

However, one person noted he rarely honked out of fear of repercussions from road rage. Although rare, they are well publicized and the potential for a violent reaction likely enters into the minds of drivers who don’t want to get involved in a situation. Last year, a major news story was about a 39-year-old woman who was shot four times after she honked at a driver who cut her off in a construction zone in Minneapolis.

Fear, as much as niceness, may be why Minnesota roads are generally quiet.

Where fear really becomes prominent is in politics. Political preferences today aren’t based on support of a candidate. Rather, it is fear of the other — other person, party, policies, associations or ideas.

That fear has become so prevalent that it isn’t confined to political situations. Politics has infiltrated the lives of people who never asked to hear a political opinion through social media, public demonstrations and even small town parades.

Parades, even in Mayberry I suspect, always were fun events staged to entertain people in many ways and bring community residents together. Last year, though, someone crashed a few parades during annual celebrations in area cities with a cage that held a replica of Hillary Clinton. This year, a parent discovered someone had put a miniature, plastic fetus in a 3-year-old’s candy bag.

There are fine people on both sides of issues, but it seems fear has driven some of these well-meaning people to extremes, rationalizing that the ends justify the means in what is to them such a crucial issue. Civility takes a back seat to the potential threat that they perceive as ruining society.

Obviously, we’re not close to Mayberry anymore. Yes, it was imaginary, a fictitious town created for our viewing entertainment, but that illusory ideal shows how far we have diverged from what, in many ways, is a worthy model of real community.

The even more unfortunate consequence is that there’s so much fear among people today that we’ll never see that ideal again, real or imagined.