Neighborhood Jesus

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Fred Rogers with Daniel Striped Tiger. 

First. Foremost. We need Mr. Rogers back from the dead. He’s needed right now in the world. Someone who is genuinely kind. Someone who genuinely listens.

Someone who’s not BATSHIT FUCKING INSANE NASTY AWFUL GREEDY FUCK FUCK FUCK. All while claiming how into Jesus they are as they DOT DOT DOT FUUUUUUUUUUUDGE A PALOOSA!!!

Okay!

I promise in the following take on the Won’t You Be My Neighbor? documentary…there won’t be too much adult language or porn stills.

The local PBS station aired the hour and a half documentary on Fred Rogers last night, starting at the unholy hour of NINE PM. Wah!

Some of us got woken up by the puppy at FOUR FREAKING AM Saturday morn. She wanted to go out, then she wanted to go out again, after I’d let her back into the house. Then she wished to play. Then she wanted out again…see where this is going?

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Brigit during one of our two snow storms. Mizz Bridge! Eight, nine months old. 

Yeah, no rest for the lazy, the wicked, the bad, the good or in general. Not with an actual Puppy Patrol making it seem she’s about to go number two if you don’t get up RIGHT FREAKING NOW. Bridge wants to bark at the coyotes. She wants to chase down that one leaf! She wants to dig a hole for no reason! At four in the morning. Because. Puppies.

Yet!

I managed to stay awake for one of my absolute fave daddy figures from childhood. Mr. Rogers with his gentle calm voice greeting me from the television screen still turns me into a sappy, happy little shit. Oh the crush I had on that man. Still have.

An admiration crush, a crush on someone so fundamentally unlike me. An actual polar opposite.

Being loud and awful seemed to be most people’s assessment of me. I always knew Mr. Rogers would think me okay. I knew that then, I know that now.

I trusted that voice when it told me things would be groovy. I trust it even now.

Basically, the documentary, with interviews from Rogers, his family, the people who worked with him on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, the people whose lives he influenced or touched in some way…was fantastic. That’s my basic review. It was fantastic.

Oh wait, there’s lots more writing after that statement! Argh!

Low key, touched on aspects I didn’t think it would, presenting a complicated man who had such a profound effect on American culture. The makers of this even visited the parody attempts, such as Eddie Murphy’s Mr. Robinson’s Neighborhood. Murphy and Mr. Rogers met, by the way. Rogers was fine with the parodies as long as they came from a place of kindness…mm.

The people blaming Rogers for teaching kids they were all special, that they didn’t have to work for anything, that they were entitled!!!…which is not what he taught at all.

You can use the Google for just how down a rabbit hole all that is. If you dare. Hell, go to Bing! Whee!

He taught that we all have worth. That, wait for it, every life matters. I like you just as you are...that’s a radical idea, a radical teaching. We might say that to people all the time…but we don’t fucking mean it. In any sense.

Mr. Rogers did.

We get to see Fred Rogers virtually save Public Television single-handedly. His speech to the Nixon admin about why we need Public Television needs to be replayed these days to the current pumpkin regime.

History repeats itself!

[[Just inarticulate ragestroke sound right now. BRB.]]

There was also takes on the manliness of Mr. Rogers. How many thought he was gay. One of the actors on the show was. Francois Clemmons.

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Francois Clemmons and Fred Rogers.

Rumors grew up how Rogers was a Navy SEAL who had killed many. Which is an interesting dance about how we perceive ‘real’ men versus men we find ‘questionable’ or ‘off’.

Men can’t be kind, gentle, understanding, empathetic or…or having anything that’s remotely touching on the ‘feminine’. It’s weird, because Rogers, an ordained Presbyterian minister, demonstrated pretty much everything Jesus taught and talked about in the Gospels.

Like loving people.

Like being kind.

Like standing up for those who need someone on their side.

Being good with children.

Hating violence.

Wanting to be positive.

Exploring topics that make one uncomfortable.

It’s weird that even today we’re still hung up on just what a ‘real’ man is. What a ‘real’ woman is. Or not so weird. Have you met humans??

After all, we have the Incel movement. We have males flocking to the Alt Right ubermasculine mancaving on hyperdrive. Feminazis are ruinin’ everythin’! Real women something something!

REAL MEN HATE EVERYONE EVEN THEMSELVES  seems to be the actual motto there.

But this isn’t my snarling goddess punch to that pack of sniveling bottom feeders. Who seek to run the entire world as some sort of High Noon scary parody come to life…!

No.

I meant to talk about Mr. Rogers and his neighborhood of beat-up looking hand puppets. How I sighed over a kind man being kind in such a gentle yet hard to miss way.

The little songs about being glad I was who I was. Warts and more warts! The sweaters. The ritual of that show.

Arriving, walking down the little flight of stairs, the closet, the changing of the shoes, the feeding of the fish. The trolley off to pretend land. The puppets having their moments, taking on real world stuff, turning that into understandable stuff.

Diversity that seemed so natural. It seemed right to have so many different sorts in that neighborhood. People who didn’t look like me or people around me. Lessons arrived in a quiet murmur, not a shouted finger-shaking scream. Sometimes the lessons involved tears.

The death of that fish. Divorce. Loss. War. Assassination. The real world and what happened there was not ignored or glossed over.

What a relief to have fears that festered inside touched upon, exposed, explained. Allowed to be talked about at all. What a relief that was.

Mr. Rogers. My other dad. My crush.

That gentle program I sat before when I was a child in the turbulent, awful seventies. The man I always thought of as Jesus, frankly. That same gentleness that masked a fierce desire to help everyone he could.

The Gospels never painted Jesus as a listener. [Here we get into stereotypical masculine and feminine traits. Men speak. Women listen…] What a mistake.

The entire power of Mr. Rogers…was that he listened, he absorbed, he observed, he saw, he witnessed. When he spoke, he spoke to you, not at you. Even though a television screen. He saw you. Just as you were and are. He saw you. That’s what makes that man so very special.

Being seen…can be such a gift.

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