What Mr. Rogers Taught me
Every word we push out into the public sphere is a statement we intend one way, but which can be perceived in another. One day, the things I say and write may be used against me --- and I might not be there to defend myself. This happened to Fred Rogers about five years ago on Fox News. Why am I bringing this up now? Because earlier this morning, a good friend of mine posted a story on his Facebook written by Rollie Williams from upworthy.com titled "Fox News Spends 6 Minutes Describing Why Mr. Rogers Was An 'Evil, Evil Man'." You can click that link to read Mr. Williams thoughts on the whole matter, which --- like my response below --- is in reaction to the Fox News story talking about what Mr. Rogers has taught a generation of children. As I said, everything we put out there warrants a response from someone else. If you have time, check out the 6 minute video (audio is slightly off, unfortunately) and see my response below it.
Or just scroll down to read my response, and find out what Mr. Rogers taught me.
This is my response, which I posted as a comment on my friend's link. I copied and pasted it verbatim as it was written fast and furiously after watching the video, and rather than spend time editing and adapting it for the blog, I opted to let you read it as it was posted to my friends.
[This turned into a much longer, emotional response than I intended when I started this comment; but I'm leaving it here nonetheless.] Wow. Just... I kept waiting for this to be some horrific April Fools Day joke. While I have, as a college instructor, experienced the "students begging for a grade" and will say that there are *some* people in this world who feel entitled (and that those people exist in EVERY generation), it has nothing to do with Mr. Rogers. I like when the guy attacking Mr. Rogers says he's not talking about his own generation, but this next set of kids... even though Mr. Rogers has been disappearing from airwaves steadily since his last episode in 2001... it's this guy's generation (MY generation from the looks of him), and those before us since the 50s-60s that watched this awesome show and learned that yes, we are special. April nailed it* --- feeling like you are special doesn't equate to feeling entitled. What Mr. Rogers taught me as a kid was that people should be nice to each other, that imagination was a gift and to hold onto it (thank you, Mr. Rogers, for that, considering I'm pursuing a career in working with my imagination), and the main thing he taught me is that I was worth something. I was the little nerd kid with giant glasses that would get picked last, picked on, and bullied. It was programs like Mr. Rogers (and, thankfully, my loving parents & family) who gave me the self-confidence and resolve to stand up to bullies and not let it get to me; to know that nothing they teased me with was my fault. Maybe I wasn't good at sports, but I was good at something. And that was using my imagination. But never for a second did that mean I would just be handed a career as a writer or artist. No, I knew I still had to work to make that happen. Like I said, feeling entitled comes to people who are handed everything and never have to work for it from a young age... Mr. Rogers never gave me anything I didn't have to work for. I still had to work to be what I wanted, to be myself, to not let others push me down, and that's not an easy thing when you're one of the "not cool" kids. Mr. Rogers only reminded me that there was something inside me worth fighting for and working for and it's sad that his show is no longer a staple on television. And it's sad that people attack him for only wanting us to learn kindness, friendship, imagination, and that we're special. Unique. We should respect those qualities in each other, the qualities that make us different. Maybe if we all learned how special and significant each person is, we might not attack each other the way we do. Clearly, this news guy didn't watch the same Mr. Rogers that I did.
*April, another friend, left this as part of her comment: "I grew up on Mr. Rogers, and I'm doing quite well. I work hard. I don't feel entitled. I believe that I am special. The idea is that you are special exactly for who you are..." [posted with permission].
Thank you for reading. If you, like me, grew up on Mr. Rogers and don't consider him an evil man, you can still find his shows airing on some PBS stations; or you can visit pbskids.org and find Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood online.
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Thoughts. From my brain. Anything to do with how we tell stories and the stories we tell each other. Literally and figuratively.
Writer. Husband. Father. Effulgent dreamer. A Fightin' Irishman (@NDdotEDU '01). A playwriting Bobcat (MFA in Playwriting, @OhioU '13). I write plays. I'm a geek. I wanted to be an astronaut. I go places in my head.