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In the proper cynicism of anyone white and/or male (which, historically, is absolutely earned), I'm leery of trusting too much in white dudes with power. I've done a poor job in the past in choosing which guys to think highly of - I'm trying to be better.

So, Mr. Rogers.
I grew up in the era of Mr. Rogers, but I don't think I spent much time in his neighborhood. I grew up on Sesame Street, eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches every day while surrounded by puppets. I didn't think of Mr. Rogers at all until I worked at a christian bookstore.
While I was there, I read every book we had on the shelf. Well, at one point, at least. That's when I was told, repeatedly, that Mr. Rogers and his ethos had destroyed America. Never mind the fact that he was a minister - he was the wrong kind, and taught the anti-christ spirit.
Which is to say that Mr. Rogers told children that they were special just for being who they were.

An abomination, because any good Christian knows that we're only special because who died for us. Our worth is transitory and can be bartered or sold away.
And if everyone is special, no one is special. Growing up being told that we're special without having to work and do things means that children grow up spoiled, entitled, and expected things to be just handed to them instead of worked and struggled for.
Which made sense. That is to say, it fit into the worldview that I had been brought up in.

When that worldview cracked and crumbled, I didn't think much of Mr. Rogers. Slowly, I learned things about him. Like that he was, in fact, a minister.
I didn't consider him seriously until I read an article (I can't find it again >_<) that pointed out that H.P. Lovecraft was born in 1890, and Mr. Rogers was born in 1928. Which, we [white people] tend to forgive the horrid racism of Lovecraft as a product of his time.
It gets harder to do when we're reminded that Mr. Rogers grew up in mostly the same time, and managed to not be a horrid human being. That realization made me more interested in Mr. Rogers as a human, and also, made me think a lot about history, racism, and what I forgive.
[As it turns out, it's not my place to "forgive" racism <except maybe in terms of Jewish racism (which is complicated by how I pass exceptionally well) thanks to my grandfather's sad legacy> and I should spend more time listening to not-me voices. Shocking, right?]
When #MeToo started, this overwhelming feeling of "no one is safe" hit me. That, I think, is called empathy.

And then, Mr. Rogers died, and when a white-man-in-power dies, one waits to hear how his legacy is more complicated than we were led to believe.
Humans are complicated. Complex. Layered. As it turns out, we're deeply flawed for a variety of reasons. All of us face unique challenges that tend to push us toward shockingly predictable ruts that trap us and direct our lives.
Mr. Rogers has recently been the subject of a movie and a book, and I learned things from both of them. Yet, both of them gloss over areas of interest in his life, such as his relationship with his parents, his socio-economic background, and his marriage.… has helped fill in some of those gaps. I'll rip the band-aid off: while Mr. Rogers is a complex human being, he's not revealed to be a monster.
He was, apparently, bisexual. "Rogers told a friend: “Well, you know, I must be right smack in the middle. Because I have found women attractive, and I have found men attractive.”"
I also found the discussion of his relationship with his father's business to be intriguing. I believe that money justifies and enables power in a human's mind, and we're not great at resisting such lures.
One thing that science has shown helps resist power's degrading effect on us is surrounding ourselves with people that are empowered to speak truth to us AND don't treat us like we're gods.

Mr. Rogers seems to have done that.
Both the movie and the book focus on his jovial relationship with co-workers, the pranks they pulled, the jokes they told. They paint a picture of a group of irreverent people working together to fight for children.
And they did fight. Many people around Mr. Rogers wanted him to come down harder against the Vietnam War, but he held the line he took. Others wanted him to be stronger for gay rights sooner than he was. I'm sure there were other arguments and discussions.
The important thing (in terms of our discussion about resisting power) is not whether or not he obeyed or agreed with them, but that they were allowed to have a genuine voice. That his will wasn't assumed. And, from what I can tell, that's true.
But the NY Times article shed light on what I should've instinctively known - we're forgetting about the women.

That is, the movie and the book forget about the women. Mr. Rogers did not.

In particular, Betty Aberlin and Margaret McFarland.
McFarland was "a psychologist who ran the University of Pittsburgh’s Arsenal Family and Children’s Center and was at the core of a Pittsburgh-based group of childhood developmental researchers, including Benjamin Spock, T. Berry Brazelton, and Erik Erikson."
"She was a pioneer in describing the rich complexity of a child’s interior life, and in seeing children’s development against the background of their relationships with others, especially parents."
According to the article, Rogers relied on her heavily for insight and advice on how to handle issues played out through the show, sometimes even interrupting takes to call her. Instead of relying on his own thoughts, Rogers relied on an expert whose work he believed in.
Similarly, the movie paints Rogers as a bit of a control freak, wanting to be as hands on as possible. It excludes Aberlin, one of the core parts of the show. The article hints at why she didn't appear (by choice) in the movie, but I was unable to find the tweets mentioned.
I think it's worth stopping here and asking questions. What about the image of a sole-creator (typically a man) is so compelling to us? Time and time again, we paint history in broad brushstrokes where a single figure changes history due to their own actions, grit, and will.
When reality is often much more complicated. No one acts in a vacuum, and no one acts alone. If you ever think that you're the only one who believes that something is worth doing, chances are, you're not listening to others enough. There are always others who are working.
So why do we return to the lone man, focusing on the sheriff while ignoring the deputy and posse?

I think it's stupid. It's a bad story. It's harmful, damaging, and we should let this burn.
We need to stop making idols of men, and instead focus on the teams and communities that really change things.

Because I don't think Mr. Rogers, even with all his passion, money, and drive, could have had the impact he did alone. I don't think anyone can.
Not alone.

Alone, we fall prey to ourselves.

Together, we're so much stronger and fierce. We give each other strength, we have each other's backs.

But we're also creatures that mimic and copy what we see - we only expect what we know.
Which means that if we continue to write and support and tell stories that feature single figures alone standing against the odds, that's what we'll expect.

That's what we'll try to do.
So we need more stories about people struggling together, who are committed to holding each other accountable, speaking truth even when it hurts, being courageously kind and fiercely loving. We need stories about the love that binds us together instead of the love that destroys.
We need to be able to talk and celebrate and support people like Aberlin and McFarland without thinking that their existence and work somehow diminishes Rogers. That's a false binary and a deadly trap.

Teams don't diminish individuals; they elevate them.
And maybe that's going to help me in 2019 as #MeToo and #ChurchToo continue on. As a writer, I'm going to be doing a lot of thinking about how I can better focus on relationships and communities and teams in my stories.
Because I reject the notion that being told that we're special and seen and loved is destroying America, and I reject the idea that any one person can save it.

It takes a team.

A community.

And I'm so very blessed to have my own neighborhood where I'm seen and loved.
One of my partners has helpfully located the article in question:…

Plug for @jimchines - he's done really excellent blog series where people come and talk about their experiences, particularly in terms of fiction. I highly recommend them. And him.
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