Mr.Rogers and Our Neighborhood

[I was on a bad blog site for a year and hardly anyone saw my stuff, so occasionally I will be reposting old posts that are not necessarily topical or relevant, but still interesting to me.]

Like many children of the late '70s and early '80s, I watched Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. And spend quite a bit of time in my own neighborhood of make-believe. There is quite a lot written about Fred Rogers and the show. Recently my interest was rekindled by a video by the YouTube Channel, Mental Floss. Which, if you do not watch, you should, plain and simple. They cover a wide variety of topics that are well researched and very informative and usually also amusing. They Also have a web presence.  Here is the video from their channel.

Fred Rodgers saw on television a void. He saw children watching the same shows as adults, which is who they were geared to. And he saw that children did not have a show that was really about and for them. He saw that children did not have to be entertained by violence and action, but could be entertained by a show that sparked their own imaginations. His show was a wonderful departure from the kind of television that people were accustomed to. He did not talk down to children, he spoke to them. He gave them a voice.

 The types of conversations he had with children covered a broad range of topics. Manners, behavior, bullies, even substance abuse. The characters in the Neighborhood of Make Believe, gave voices to so many different types of personalities, that it was almost impossible for children to not relate to one or more of them. Anyone who watched the show had a favorite. I loved Daniel Striped Tiger. I associated with his shyness and his sort of need for boundaries while also being a "ferocious" tiger.

But in reality, I found a bit of myself in all the characters. And that was, I think, the point. We all lived in that world. And we all found something to help us in defining ourselves later in life. And Fred Rogers did not just do a show for children, he was a vocal advocate in public for children. He testified before a congressional committee of public television funding, speaking of the need for good quality educational programming for children.

Recently, Clint Eastwood has come out with some very harsh words for the last few generations. And taken out of context, they seem even harsher. People have been tweeting and reblogging excerpts from his statement that only highlights the extremely negative comments. Read the whole interview here, and make your own judgments. But it made me think about the lessons that Mr. Rogers taught, and the world we live in now. Have we become overly sensitive to every little thing? In some ways yes. In one or two generations we were taught that were are all individuals, and then later we are taught

“You are not special. You're not a beautiful and unique snowflake. You're the same decaying organic matter as everything else. We're all part of the same compost heap. We're all singing, all dancing crap of the world.”.
~~Chuck Palahniuk: Fight Club

A good book by the way if you have not read it.

But back to the question at hand, are we better off with the lessons taught to us by Mr. Rogers? I think we are. But I think like many things in life we tend to overthink ourselves and make too much of some things. The lessons he taught us were universal and could be applied to all cultures across the world. Fred Rogers was a Presbyterian minister, but in my youth and later in life, I never thought he was preaching to me, or trying to convert me. He just wanted me to grow up to be a good person. And I hope I did. I hope that I live my life in a way that he would approve of and appreciate. He taught me that I was the only one who I had to satisfy. That my goal in life should not be about getting ahead of others, but to get ahead of myself. I wish that there was another Fred Rogers for every generation and culture on this planet. Maybe then, Clint would not think of us as being "pussies", but being people who matter. Because all of us matter.

But That's Just Me...Walking My Mind


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