As a child, I could usually be found parked in front of the TV with either Sesame Street or Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Fred Rogers was a Presbyterian Minster who rarely shared his religious or political beliefs on television, all while showing children the good things in life and working to educate them. He was known for his trademark sweater and shoe changes, visits to factories to show children how common items were made, and his puppets in the Land of Make Believe. What many didn’t realize was that Fred Rogers was a radical pacifist and would have preferred nothing more than a world that eliminated war.
In Peaceful Neighbor: Discovering the Countercultural Mister Rogers author Michael G. Long examines the career of Fred Rogers and the TV show that framed his beliefs without ever forcing them down the throats of viewers. Long argues that Mister Roger’s Neighborhood was far more than a childrens’ television program, but rather a vehicle to teach children about the concepts of pacifism and the importance of treating the world and others with respect. In one passage, Long describes a “war sequence” in the Land of Make Believe. This sequence discusses the horrors of war and how it affects everyone in the land, rather than just the few involved in the crisis.
Fred Rogers was a man who, according to a well told anecdote, would intentionally say he was feeding his fish when doing so on national television so that blind children listening to the program would know what he was doing. Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood was a powerful impact on my childhood, making Peaceful Neighbor a fascinating read.