Last night we watched the Mister Rogers documentary, Won’t You Be My Neighbor. My hope was that it would be a bit uplifting, maybe make me cry in a good way, and serve as a balm against the horrific world of 2020. Instead it just made me feel guilty, and the wrong kind of sad. When I was a kid I looked up to Fred Rogers. I still do. I have a stuffed elephant that I named Fred because he’s a comforting presence. But I carry too much anger and frustration to be the sort of person he is. I want to walk through the world with positivity and grace, but I’m not wired that way. There’s no amount of meditation or happy thoughts that will ever make me that way.
Toward the end of the documentary we get to the period where he was being vilified by conservative media. Oh the audacity, telling children they’re all special without having to earn their specialness. Mister Rogers was right. Everyone is a child of God, deserving of love, dignity, and respect. Any Christian that says anything to the contrary isn’t a Christian. Of course they had to reframe his message in the context of who works hard and who doesn’t, who is worthy and who isn’t, the typical late-stage capitalist, bigoted, zero-sum, rhetoric. Which got me thinking, of course, about Black Lives Matter.
Let’s Make the Most of This Beautiful Day
Toward the end of his life, Fred Rogers wondered whether or not he’d made a difference. In fact, he seemed convinced that he hadn’t. For all his efforts, people were still being terrible toward one another. Things were getting worse. We know what he’d have to say about things today. He was taking us on visits to the Neighborhood in the 1960s, after all.
The film is supposed to be a tribute to the lives he touched and the impact that he did have. I’m still left lingering over how he felt toward the end, though. With all he accomplished, he felt it wasn’t enough. If he felt that way, damn, what have I done with my life? What have I accomplished? How am I having any positive affect on the world?
All I can do is keep yelling. My voice is small compared to the Tucker Carlsons and Ben Shapiros of the world. This blog doesn’t have the sort of reach that their media expressions do. I still need to speak up. Call bullshit. Be an advocate for truth in a world full of gaslighting and propaganda. Doing something might not feel satisfying, but it feels a whole lot better than doing nothing.