What America Needs Now is a new Mister Rogers

Without question, Mister Rogers was the television personality who had as big an influence on my life as my family. Mister Rogers had a unique way of speaking directly to us, right through the television. He talked to us as peers,  guiding us to be in touch with our emotions, fostering a generation of kids with a curiosity and a vocabulary for talking with others about emotions and things inside. For many, Mister Rogers was the only person who spoke them about these things.

In considering America today, I believe morality and ethics will be the common ground that America and the world will come back to. Truth may be questionable in an era of fake news, but what’s right is always right and decency to others still stands. I’ve probably watched the video of Mister Rogers testifying before a Senate committee determined to stop government funding of PBS a dozen times, and I still tear up every time he recites the lyrics to the song “What Do You Do With The Mad That You Feel?”. To see the way Mister Rogers connected to the most cold hearted politician in such a deeply moving human way shows me there can be hope. There was once a time when an opposing politician would pause, listen, and make an ethical call to benefit children instead of deciding purely along party lines and rhetoric. With so many government programs we have taken for granted on the chopping block, America needs to hold its representatives accountable to listen to us now more than ever.

I never got to meet him, but sharing the name Fred meant that there was a special closeness about the way I identified with Mister Rogers as a child. I think he connected to everyone that way– This 1998 Esquire piece paints a great picture of him, and this piece in Salon is another I found that conjectures about what his positions might have evolved to in our day and age. Over the last few years (through her friendship with Kevin Smith of all people), I have rediscovered someone else from the neighborhood, Betty Aberlin. Her character Lady Aberlin’s royalty was metaphorical for the nobility we all have within ourselves. In this interview, she speaks about the need for more low key and gentle male role models like Mister Rogers, Alan Alda on M*A*S*H, and more recently Obama. I think she’s right.

With the lack of civility in recent public discourse, more than ever we need role models that teach us the importance of mutual respect and living life as a quest for continued personal growth. Kids and adults need to learn to think much more about “we” than “me”, and we all need to eat a slice of humble pie and realize it’s not about divisions, but about coming together, preferably in the real world. Face it, it’s a lot harder to be nasty to one another when we’re not hiding behind our screens. Regardless of what tribes we belong to, it’s time for us to come together as a society with a renewed moral compass, one whose values everyone can agree on. Living with love, integrity, virtue, and respect for others – without a need to impose our views upon them, and holding that the value of the common good is as important as that of our own.

Where are you, Mister Rogers? Come back.
Remind us to keep aiming high.

There is Always Hope: A Love Letter for America

Happy Valentines Day.
America broke my heart in 2016 but I’m committing to this being a year of positive growth and transformation so I’m sending this message of love out to the world in the hopes that collectively we can all channel our anger, hurt and disappointment into constructive avenues that will make a difference in the world. I didn’t want this post to be just more partisan politics, it’s high time people came together to rediscover the common threads that unite us, not divide us. If you’re like me, you feel like you spent the last 3 months in a permanent panic attack, livid with rage, scared, constantly near tears, hurt, isolated and confused by a world of fake news, denial of science, alternative facts and shock events. Facebook proved to be a bubble made up of primarily cheerleaders who shared my politics. I found myself being upset by and upsetting people, some close, some not so close, from both sides of the political fence. Insults were hurled, friendships were lost, families torn apart. I regret some of the things I said and did, and I know I’m not the only one. We need to have a healing moment, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to come from Washington.

Valentine’s Day is here and it sure feels like love has disappeared from the world. I have been looking for the remotest signs of hope, specifically any kind of vision of how red and blue states can find a common ground to come together. This interview with Jon Stewart touches on so many relevant points, but starting at 3:54, on through when he talks what makes America exceptional, I again begin to feel hope that maybe there can be a common ground. His point is that people are naturally tribal and want to segregate into tribes, but what is extraordinary about America is the way it can transcend that.

I also found some inspiration in my Twitter feed this week when I saw Cory Booker tweeting at some harsh critics a message of love and compassion. I can’t seem to find the exact tweet that inspired me, but this article in the Washington Post talks about how he handles haters. New York state governor Andrew Cuomo picked up on themes of love and unity last week when a train full of passengers scrubbed off Nazi graffiti.

This is America at its best. We are a diverse people, but when we come together, magic happens. This is the exceptionalism Jon Stewart is talking about. Maureen Dowd’s recent piece in the NY times also talks about the Trump’s Gold lining and Americans coming together in reaction our new leader’s divisiveness. Flipping the channels last night I happened upon Accidental Courtesy on PBS’ Independant Lens, which profiled musician Daryl Davis, an African American musician who has spent over 30 years befriending members of the KKK. Slowly, through face to face meetings in which both sides talk and listen, he has put a human face on blind hatred and led many of them to shed their robes and renounce their ways. His story was an inspiration and lesson about a path in which all Americans, red and blue could maybe come together after this election.

If you’re like me,  you’ve probably ruffled someone’s feathers one way or another this year, but today may be a good time to reach out and make a plan to meet in the real world for a drink to begin to mend fences.

I love you America.
Happy Valentine’s Day ❤