Mr. Rogers was a Presbyterian minister, a man born into a world just realizing the potential of the television and what it was capable of. What's interesting about him is how much promise it had as a tool, and yet how much potential for evil it could also engender. Now, I'm nobody to demonize anyone else for what they watch, nor would I ever try. I think the television on in the background of my apartment just got done airing a scene of intergang warfare from a crazy Japanese anime in which demon Yakuza battle against undead mob enforcers.
But if I do know one thing, it's that, sometimes, it's important to stop and reflect. You don't always need to be overwhelmed and, as Mister Rogers puts it, "bombarded" by sound and noise in order to be entertained. In the video, Rogers says that the drama of two men working through their emotions is much more important, relevant and dramatic than the drama of guns being fired. For young children growing up, this is an important point. And you know what? It's probably important for all of us to remember, from time to time.
We don't have to agree on every point of each others' morals and spiritual beliefs, but I think everyone can agree that telling kids it's okay to be angry, it's okay to be upset, but you can find healthy ways of expressing that anger, is a lesson that needs to be reinforced. Mr. Rogers was an important light and, in my opinion, equally as important to PBS identity as anything we ever saw on Sesame Street. As Big Bird became a meme during the presidential election, a source of comedy as we mocked Mitt Romney's desire to cancel PBS' funding to pocket the government equivalent of pocket change, some might have missed a genuine point. There is television out there that should be divorced of advertisements and heavy promotions. There are genuine lessons to be learned, heartfelt ones about dealing with brothers and sisters and being okay with going to the doctor, that should not be entangled with companies trying to make a buck. It's funny because, though we often tackled the topic of big companies and their influence in American media, Mister Rogers doesn't shy away from crediting the Sears Roebuck company with helping fund his program.
That's nothing new, we're all aware that funding comes in from multiple places. However, we also give credit where credit is due. Shows like Mr. Rogers Neighborhood deserve to be aired, because they go against the mold and actually try to enforce real, useable lessons. Rather than trite platitudes forced into the storyline of some Saturday cartoon, Mr. Rogers' message was the core of the show around which everything else was molded. And really, how often can you say that 6 minutes of a soft spoken man made you cry? Because I can almost guarantee that's what Mr. Rogers' testimony will do to you.
Don't believe me? Just listen to the transformation of the senator grilling Mr. Rogers in the video, who opens up with snark and by the end of the hearing is finding it hard just to talk. That's the sort of effect a genuine message can have on the human heart, and that is why PBS is important.