Fred Rogers and the Loveliness of the Little Good

The power is in Rogers’s radical kindness at a time when public kindness is scarce. It’s as if the pressure of living in a time such as ours gets released in that theater as we’re reminded that, oh yes, that’s how people can be.

Moral elevation gains strength when it is scarce.

.. Mister Rogers was a lifelong Republican and an ordained Presbyterian minister. His show was an expression of the mainline Protestantism that was once the dominating morality in American life.

.. Once, as Tom Junod described in a profile for Esquire, Rogers met a 14-year-old boy whose cerebral palsy left him sometimes unable to walk or talk. Rogers asked the boy to pray for him.

The boy was thunderstruck. He had been the object of prayers many times, but nobody had asked him to pray for another. He said he would try since Mister Rogers must be close to God and if Mister Rogers liked him he must be O.K.

Junod complimented Rogers on cleverly boosting the boy’s self-esteem, but Rogers didn’t look at the situation that way at all: “Oh, heavens no, Tom! I didn’t ask him for his prayers for him; I asked for me. I asked him because I think that anyone who has gone through challenges like that must be very close to God. I asked him because I wanted his intercession.”

And here is the radicalism that infused that show: that

  • the child is closer to God than the adult;
  • that the sick are closer than the healthy;
  • that the poor are closer than the rich and
  • the marginalized closer than the celebrated.

Rogers often comforted children on the show and taught them in simple terms, but the documentary shows how he did so with a profound respect for the dignity of each child that almost rises to veneration. You see his visceral disgust for shows that don’t show respect — that dump slime on children, that try to entertain them with manic violence.

In the gospel of Fred Rogers, children are our superiors in the way

  • they trust each person they meet, the way
  • they lack guile,
  • the way a child can admit simple vulnerability.

Rogers was drawing on a long moral tradition, that the last shall be first. It wasn’t just Donald Trump who reversed that morality, though he does represent a cartoonish version of the idea that winners are better than losers, the successful are better than the weak. That morality got reversed long before Trump came on the scene, by an achievement-oriented success culture, by a culture that swung too far from humble and earnest caritas.

Rogers was singing from a song sheet now lost, a song sheet that once joined conservative evangelicals and secular progressives. The song sheet may be stacked somewhere in a drawer in the national attic, ready for reuse once again.

Ivanka and Vodka, on the Rocks

Why had she stayed mute for so many days about the torment her father was inflicting on thousands of immigrant children? What will happen to her if Michael Cohen flips?

.. doomed never to return to her privileged perch as a Manhattan society darling?

.. “It’s really easy for someone whose sole job in the White House is women and children to issue a statement — even Melania did it,”

.. “It just shows how fake Ivanka is,” Fox continued. “She’s crafted this whole image of herself that’s not actually her. And the real her is cooler, slightly more interesting, funnier. She curses like a sailor. She partied a lot when she was younger. She flashed a hot dog vendor when she was in eighth grade. She chain-smoked. Which is so opposite of the image she put out there.

.. “What you’re seeing now is the unmasking. She can’t control the narrative anymore because she’s so inauthentic. It has really come back to bite her.”

.. as the echoes of sobbing children snatched from parents fleeing violence collided with images of a whining, pampered child-president bragging about his crowd size and his bank account, all while he callously used helpless kids as hostages to get his wall.

.. Her $39 Zara jacket read, “I Really Don’t Care. Do U?” And yet again, it wasn’t clear whom she was trolling — most likely, as her husband tweeted,

.. Which means the first lady is like her husband in one unfortunate respect: In times of national turmoil, she makes it about herself.

.. “She was infatuated with the Kennedys,” Fox said.

.. She tried to present her brand as luminous, caring and classy — a champion of women and children with a carefully curated image over the years on Instagram, in a blog and in books.

Amid the dark hailstorm of her father, Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller, she sold herself as the sunny morning — the one who would temper her father’s retrogressive and sometimes wretched moves.

.. Introducing him at the 2016 Republican convention, Ivanka assured the crowd that he had “empathy and generosity,” as well as “kindness and compassion.”

.. it seemed like fan fiction.

.. a former top Trump administration official recently told me, “Donald Trump is the meanest man I’ve ever met.”

.. After her panic when he left her mother for Marla Maples — Ivanka worried she wouldn’t be able to keep the Trump name, and called him constantly — she spent her life fashioning herself, “Vertigo”-style, into his ideal.

.. no matter how hard Ivanka tried, Donald Trump thought she could be even more ideal. When she was a model, Fox writes, her father “suggested to friends that breast implants might help her along.

..  Maryanne Trump, Donald’s sister, urging him to talk Donald out of letting her get plastic surgery that young.

.. When his friend confronted him about it, he denied that she was getting implants. At the end of the call, he asked, ‘Why not, though?’”

.. Ivanka succeeded in being a Mini-Me. By 16, she trademarked her name with the intention of using it for everything from bras to brow liner to scrub masks. “There is a distinct genetic quality to Ivanka’s preternatural ability to self-promote,”

.. Ivanka ran into split-screen trouble with her gauzy and glam mommy-of-the-year Instagram posts during the refugee ban, the migrant crisis and the Palestinians dying at the Israeli border during her visit to the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem.

.. Her father is the all-consuming maw, what Fox calls “an infinite pit of need — a time-sucking vampire who fed off those around him to sustain his own vanity.”

.. Ivanka backed up the president’s fake narrative that it was Congress’s fault. When Daddy finally ended the pitiless policy that he imposed, she congratulated him on Twitter for white knighting it

.. The Trump family, of course, was seeing the problem as optics, not as a barbaric flouting of American values.

.. Donald and Ivanka are consumed with protecting their own brands. America’s? Not so much.

In Donald Trump, Evangelicals Have Found Their President

Mr. Trump took a car ride with Mike Pence along with Billy Graham’s son Franklin and Tony Perkins, a leading figure on the Christian right, during the Louisiana floods of 2016. Impressed by what Franklin Graham’s Christian ministry had done for flood victims, Mr. Trump told him that he was writing it a six-figure check, which Mr. Graham told him to send to Mr. Perkins’s church. Both men were moved by his impulsive kindness, and a bond was formed.

.. When Mr. Trump exited the car, he gave Mr. Robison a hug, pulled him up against his chest firmly and said, “Man, I sure love you.” A small gesture, perhaps, but heartfelt, real and so unlike the caricature of the president most of us see. And practically every evangelical leader I interviewed has a similar story.

.. Critics say that the Trump-evangelical relationship is transactional

.. evangelicals take the long view on Mr. Trump; they afford him grace when he doesn’t deserve it. Few dispute that Mr. Trump may need a little more grace than others. But evangelicals truly do believe that all people are flawed, and yet Christ offers them grace. Shouldn’t they do the same for the president?

.. The Bible is replete with examples of flawed individuals being used to accomplish God’s will. Evangelicals I interviewed said they believed that Mr. Trump was in the White House for a reason.

.. Bishop Wayne Jackson, who is the pastor of Great Faith Ministries International in Detroit and calls himself a lifelong Democrat, remembers Mr. Trump’s campaign visit to his church. He told me that the moment Mr. Trump got out of the car, “the spirit of the Lord told me that that’s the next president of the United States.”

.. I’ve watched Mr. Trump through the lens of the faith community for years, and he has delivered the policy goods and is progressing on the spiritual ones.

.. Donald Trump is on a spiritual voyage that has accelerated in recent years, thanks to evangelicals who have employed the biblical mandate of sharing and showing God’s love to him rather than shunning him.

.. This president’s effect on our cultural norms has been shocking. His critics would call it appalling; evangelicals say it’s immensely satisfying: They’ve seen a culture deteriorate quickly in the past decade, and they’re looking for a bold culture warrior to fight for them.

Showing that God does indeed have a sense of humor, He gave them Mr. Trump. Yet in God’s perfection, it’s a match made in heaven.

Mr. Trump and evangelicals share a disdain for political correctness, a world seen through absolutes and a desire to see an America that embraces Judeo-Christian values again rather than rejecting them.

.. Finally, why in the world wouldn’t evangelicals get behind and support a man who not only is in line with most of their agenda but also has delivered time and time again? The victories are numerous:

  • the courts,
  • pro-life policies,
  • the coming Embassy in Jerusalem and
  • religious liberty issues

, just to name a few. He easily wins the unofficial label of “most evangelical-friendly United States president ever.”

.. But the goal of evangelicals has always been winning the larger battle over control of the culture, not to get mired in the moral failings of each and every candidate.

.. For evangelicals, voting in the macro is the moral thing to do, even if the candidate is morally flawed. Evangelicals have tried the “moral” candidate before.

  1. .. Jimmy Carter was once the evangelical candidate. How did that work out in the macro?
  2. George W. Bush was the evangelical candidate in 2000: He pushed traditional conservative policies, but he doesn’t come close to Mr. Trump’s courageous blunt strokes in defense of evangelicals.