I watched the Rogers documentary the other night on PBS. The first thing that got my attention--Rogers wanted a show where someone could help children modulate the emotions. It was 1968--Vietnam Protests, the Assasinations of MLK and RFK, whole cities burning. Who is looking after the children? And up rose Rogers, with his soft, slow voice, puppets, and Musical Land of Make-Believe, setting boundaries. He came in singing, asking you to be his friend, changing out of his blazer and shoes into sweaters and sneakers.
Full disclosure--I was in that age group and I was turned off by that whole intro. I have never watched a whole episode of Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood (MRN) in my life. I did enjoy the Eddie Murphy satires, as well as the SCTV "Battle of the PBS Stars."
What turned me off: I came from a house of proudly unmodulated anger. A man who talked softly, slowly, offered unconditional acceptance, who changed into sneakers and sweaters was an alien to me. I preferred BATMAN--now there was a superhero who had fun things to say about emotional modulation. Bruce Wayne changed from a blazer into--Batman. No sweaters or sneakers for him. A different type of hero.
For we now in the USA live in a land filled with unmodulated anger and lack of cooperation. Do you have to "believe" in the efficacy of masks to put one on in stores? A rhetorical question. No, you do not. We live in a society and if it makes people feel better, paste a (hidden) smile of cooperation on your face and don it like Beckham. Maskholes indeed. Does it make you feel better? You are irrelevant. As Franklin said, "we must all hang together or we most assuredly will all hang separately." Cohere, connect, and don the mask, if that's what it takes. What is it to you if you don't believe? This is not a point of religion. It is civics.
Ongoing and continuous shortages of normal, household things, from Lysol spray, toilet paper, eggs, bikes. People thinking they can raise chickens for the eggs, with no idea of how much care is required before they can even brood (the chickens, that is).
This terror is out of the conscious ken of all. As Senile Sylvia said, "Even WWII wasn't this bad. And we were all together." And there were things that everyone could do to help the war--do you really think that Victory Gardens were of any use--it made people feel like part of a larger force.
We are unique. All other countries had the leaders reading books to the children, etc. Israel has long had programs in schools which routinize emergency procedures. They sing and march out, the lyrics sung being about coping. Children need to learn about how to handle unbearable, unpredictable events. Sing out, Louise indeed.
But what about the rest of us? If you aren't depressed, you haven't lived in the US in the last 6 months. Shortages. Lockdowns. Inability to travel freely, to see parents, friends, relatives, childrens. Increased suicide rates.
We shut down libraries, universities, and book stores. Liquor stores and pot shops, of course--welcome.
And we wonder that we are in the dark ages. Or back in the Puritanical ages. Routine famines due to crop failures or too cold winters. Inadequate heat--due to overforesting. Severe punishments for routine expressions of needs. Bad education. No entertainment. Conspiracies--back then--Salem Witches. Now--who can count the fake news cycles and the abuse charges.
With the shuttering of school--who looks after the children? Quick answer--no one. No one is helping them modulate the unbearable anxiety, the loss of structure, the loss of play. And so anger is all around us. And our own witches.
And we are not all in this together. There are the rich people, who fled to country villas. There are the upper middle class who rented homes out of the city and took their bikes, etc. And then the rest of us--stuck in our tiny apartments, with indifferent internet and employers who shiflted the cost of doing business onto us---xerox--moi. Telephone, electric, heat, a/c--moi. Paper, toner--moi. Water--moi.
Zoom learning is not necessarily inferior--after all, Lincoln read the law--he didn't attend law school. But he didn't havle to pay tuition either. And he read. Who is reading these days? I finally finished DON QUIXOTE. I am reading the Bible. I also finally read REBECCA (just like her Biblical counterpart--beauty, beneficience, and betrayals).
We are a social species. To penalize individuals for normal expressions of needs--to be with friends, to make love, to belong. To have a safe space. What percentage of American's don't even have a safe space. Food insecurity. So many American's aren't even on Level 2 of Maslow's hierarchy.
And all the leaders do is show anger. All of them are a parcel of rogues, to quote the poet Burns. A lot of penis wagging. Punishing and punishing--don't wear masks--=punished. Don't cooperate with contact tracers--punished. No one even helps to find out--what can I do to make this more manageable--how about free PPE, btw. I think it is a shande that people have to purchase masks, let alone nitrile gloves.
We need kindness. We need positive reinforcement. We need leaders who approve of us--all of us, the superobedient and the superspreaders. We need to get the center to hold once again. Not for the best to lack all conviction; the worst to have passionate intensity.
It is easy and energizing and fun to express anger. Stop yourself. Take a breath. Tikkun olam.