Why I’m Unworthy of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood

 

Lon Chaney as the Phantom of the Opera
I share this photograph, taken of me just this morning, in order to show that, contrary to the claims of my critics, I am often filled with love, kindness, and an almost irresistibly contagious joie de vivre.     (Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons)

 

Nearly two weeks ago, having just returned from watching a documentary about the late children’s television host Fred Rogers, I remarked here on this blog that I had never been a fan of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, had probably never watched an entire episode, and didn’t really enjoy what I had seen:

 

“A movie-induced walk down memory lane”

 

That revealing admission seems to have stirred up yet another negative discussion about me (on a mostly atheist and apostate message board where, admittedly, negative discussions about me are regular, perhaps even mandatory, occurrences).  It’s an amusing conversation, and I think I’ll comment on it.

 

The thread or discussion was launched by my Malevolent Stalker, who has dedicated most of his online activity for the past decade or more to posting anonymous criticisms of me and to leveling anonymous accusations against me.

 

My Malevolent Stalker likes to charge me with such offenses as, to choose a few from among many, the deliberate destruction of other people’s careers, racism, slander, sexism, mercenary greed, anti-Semitism, libel, seething and uncontrolled anger, voyeurism, intentionally destroying families, dishonesty, a propensity to violence, and fascism.  For a while, he spent his days combing through publicly available Internal Revenue Service documents in an effort to demonstrate that I’ve earned large sums of money from seeking to defend the claims of Mormonism.  At one point, he triumphantly produced a Christmas wishlist posted on Amazon years before by my youngest son (when that son was about six or eight) in order to illustrate some aspect or other — I’ve forgotten the exact specifics — of the psychologically dangerous consequences of growing up in my family.

 

Several years ago, one of his themes focused on my bland, unadventurous, vanilla tastes in art, literature, music, and drama, which stem from my manifold aesthetic and intellectual inadequacies.  (So far as I’m aware, we’ve never met.  But he knows such things about me.  He knows.)  This time, though, my stated lack of interest in Mr. Rogers’s Neighborhood — a program that has often been criticized as, precisely, bland, unadventurous, and very vanilla — reveals my defective character and my moral depravity.

 

Because, you see, it’s not just that I didn’t like the show.  I actually, even “coldly,” “hate” Mr. Rogers himself.  (Curiously, until I read my Malevolent Stalker’s analysis, I imagined that I found the man himself quite likable, a judgment that had just been reinforced by the recent documentary.)  I despise Mr. Rogers’s goodness, his niceness, and his kindness.  I disrespect him because he was Christlike — for the simple and sufficient reason that, when it comes right down to it, I don’t actually like Jesus, either.  Moreover, Fred Rogers was and is a painful reminder to me of my moral failures and an exemplar of decent behavior, which I loathe.

 

The concurring opinions arrived almost immediately:

 

Peterson, observed one of the Stalker’s respondents, cannot comprehend genuine kindness and affection, and, consequently, had no time for either Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood or Fred Rogers himself.

 

Another offered Fred Rogers as an example of genuine Christian discipleship — he actually was, by the way, an ordained Presbyterian minister — which is enough to explain why I would hate him.

 

Yet another — perhaps trying to be more sympathetic to me — offered the insight that, since my fellow defectives and I spend our lives trying not to face reality, we don’t have much energy left over for being nice.  Later, a second sympathetic commenter explained that I don’t “understand” Mr. Rogers because, unlike Fred Rogers, I’m afflicted with a “hardness” in my character that apparently forces me to judge and condemn others.

 

A subsequent commenter pointed out that what separates me from Fred Rogers is that, unlike Mr. Rogers, I lack sincerity and authenticity.  Fred Rogers was kind, authentic, accepting, sincere, and loving, while I . . . Well, does it really need to be pointed out that I’m none of those things?  She went on to remind the others that nobody has ever, ever, detected even a trace of human empathy in me.

 

My Malevolent Stalker’s “Mini-Me,” a distinctly odd fellow who likes to flatly invent shameful quotations and attribute them to me and who, for a year or two, falsely claimed to be a serving (but unbelieving) LDS bishop and to have accompanied me on a tour of Israel, where he purportedly observed my viciousness and laughable incompetence at first hand and up close, arrived then to announce that he was unsurprised that I hold Fred Rogers in utter contempt.  Why?  Because, unlike Mr. Rogers, I’m absolutely consumed with perpetual hatred, anger, and virtually uncontrollable rage.

 

One of the reasons behind my visceral disgust at Fred Rogers, offered still another commenter, might be that he was Presbyterian.  That’s right, commented a different participant in the discussion.  Mr. Rogers, after all, didn’t have the priesthood.  A third participant agreed: Peterson has an exclusivist view of religion; in Peterson’s view, there’s nothing valuable outside of Mormonism.

 

One man joined in just to compliment my Malevolent Stalker on his brilliant opening post and to call me an “[crude expletive deleted].”  (Presumably, I’ve offended him by my lack of niceness and kindness.)

 

Perhaps, opined another participant in the discussion, I hate and despise Mr. Rogers because, in my worldview, the idea that a non-Mormon might be a good, decent human being is deeply threatening.

 

Basically, the discussion appears to have concluded, people like me just plain hate and fear love.

 

And all of this because I wasn’t a fan of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.  (I’m guessing that mine wasn’t the only television set in America that wasn’t tuned in.)

 

But why on earth should I have been?  I also never watched the Cosby Show, the Lawrence Welk Show, or Alias Smith and Jones.  Truth be told, I didn’t watch much television at all.

 

Moreover, according to Wikipedia, the target audience for Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood was preschool ages 2 to 5.  But when the show came on the air in 1968, I was already fifteen years old and just two years away from the university.  Should I have skipped my high school classes to watch it?

 

At one point in the discussion, even Professor Louis Midgley is cited as someone whose poor character is demonstrated by the fact that he didn’t watch Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood (as he himself acknowledges in a comment following the blog post of mine that inspired the conversation described above).  But Dr. Midgley is (literally) old enough to be my father.  (There’s no shame in that, of course, as, for some, there would be in actually being my father.)  Should he have cancelled his university lectures on political philosophy and on the Federalist Papers in order to stay home and watch the show?  Should he, perhaps, have had his classes watch it?

 

I find myself thinking, in this context, of Puck’s exclamation to Oberon in William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, III.ii.115:

 

“Lord, what fools these mortals be!”

 

(Shakespeare was a Mormon, right?)

 

Posted from Newport Beach, California

 

 

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