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Notes from a Crusty Seeker

What Would Mister Rogers Do?



The new documentary about Mister (Fred) Rogers, Won't You Be My Neighbor?, could not be more timely. Some of the seasoned professionals at the Directors Guild screening last night wept—with longing. Mister Rogers's message was simple: Be Kind. A Presbyterian minister, Fred Rogers never "preached." He just loved. He looked deeply into the eyes of children and said, "I like you just the way you are." He embodied the Golden Rule. He knew that at the core of every person is a small child who wants to be loved and valued as they are. He knew that human beings start in this world filled with a desire to be good.

It is no coincidence that director Morgan Neville received unprecedented support to get this movie into theaters as soon as was humanly possible. The message from everybody who helped—financially and otherwise—was "We need this movie!" And in fact the film ends on questions about what Fred Rogers would do right now, in our current political and cultural tumult. "I think he would try to make it bend," says his widow Joanne. I interpreted that to mean that rather than rail at the reprehensible behavior of President Trump et al., he would look this man deeply in the eyes and try to address the hiding child full of goodness inside.

I am not a fraction as good as Fred Rogers was. I wish I were, but I'm not. I'm frequently so enraged, appalled, or scared that I almost can't speak. The most recent focus of all of these unpleasant feelings is the ongoing practice of ripping children away from illegal immigrants, incarcerating parents and children as young as babies in cages, and thereby ensuring that tiny human beings grow up so traumatized that they will never trust anybody again and the family units that our current administration preaches they revere are decimated. I am a quietly raving lunatic with my reaction. But for a moment I would like to pretend I'm as good as Mr. Rogers, and here is what I would say:

Mr. Trump, I can see in your eyes a deep longing to be loved, and I would like to tell you that I'm sorry for all the pain you have endured. I'm sorry that nobody ever told you they loved and valued you exactly as you are. It was a terrible thing that perhaps early on when you longed for a pet—let's say a puppy— you were told that having a special animal friend was low class, even dirty—that you were taught that your longing for love was bad and dirty. I can see how you longed to be good, and secretly you still want that. So how about we start right now?

Do the right thing: keep children with their parents; find a way to make safe the DACA kids and people who have established lives in this country, paid taxes, and contributed to society. I know you value children. Make them feel safe in their homes and in their schools. Make the Earth a safe, clean place for everyone. See how good you can be . . . just the way you are.












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