I saw a very interesting movie recently called “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” As you may already know (or may have guessed) it was a documentary about the children’s television host Fred Rogers, known to all as “Mr. Rogers”. For me, it was somewhat enlightening. I was born too early to have watched “Mr. Rogers Neighborhood” myself, and my kids were the right age to watch at about the time that the show went off the air for a few years. So it was interesting to see a documentary about how Mr. Rogers related to children and to learn about the inner workings of the show.
While he didn’t shy away from difficult subjects, Mr. Rogers was all about kindness. He told kids and adults alike “I like you for who you are”. He wasn’t perfect, but everything he did was with love in his heart. So you can imagine how jarring it was (small spoiler alert) when the filmmakers showed, toward the end of the movie, some of the wonderful human beings (sarcasm alert) at Fox News discuss Mr. Rogers’ legacy. They were shrill, they were nasty, and they more or less blamed Fred Rogers for all that is wrong with today’s youth. They particularly derided his message to children that each one of them is special. After all, heaven forbid that a kid who has challenges should feel good about herself. Oh no, said the Fox bullies. They think the young kid who goes out and tries something that is difficult for her shouldn’t be told “Nice try; way to go”. Instead she should be told “You suck”. Builds character, I suppose, although that concept sounds a bit ironic coming from people who have none. But sheer meanness? That they have in spades.
Which, as I’m sure is no surprise, leads us to Trump. It’s been reported that someone who recently left his job at the White House said of Trump “He’s the meanest person I’ve ever met”. By the way, that goes for his supporters too. Don’t buy the nonsense that says that people who voted for Trump did so because he talked about jobs. Hillary Clinton talked about jobs too. If you can stomach it, look at one of Trump’s rallies. They don’t chant “Bring back jobs”. They chant “Lock her up” and “Build the wall”. It’s Trump’s hate that truly gets them going. With all of his narcissism and ignorance, it’s Trump’s sheer meanness that comes through again and again as his defining trait. Make no mistake: he is a sadist who enjoys hurting people. Whereas Mr. Rogers asked everyone who tuned into his show “Won’t you be my neighbor?”, Trump rips small children from their parents’ arms and then neglects to remember the minor point of where he put them. Not very neighborly, I would say.
So go see “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”. It’s both soothing and refreshing to be in the company of such unbridled kindness, even if only for 90 minutes or so. And then go out and put your own kindness into action. Show the White House bully that treating others decently and sympathetically is not a weakness, but is actually a strength. Bullies like Trump are cowards. People like Fred Rogers, who exhibit kindness to all, are true heroes.