Thursday, May 25, 2006

There's a short little essay that was printed a couple days ago in The Globe and Mail that keeps returning in my mind, like a irritating pebble (as like in a shoe or like in an oyster? the quality of this post will answer that question)

The essay will disappear from the online world in less than a week, so here's the synopsis: Boy asked his dad if he can have a cap gun. Dad hesitates but recalling his own pleasure owning such a toy, buys him one. Boys loves his new cap gun and wants to bring it to school. Dad refuses. Boy demands to know why. Dad explains that the gun could be mistaken as a real one and reluctantly tells the boy that kids have been shot in school. Boy protests saying that the gun is just a toy and that no one would think that he would do such a thing. Dad continues to refuse and explains how fear is bigger than what is probable. Boys gets angry - but not at Dad. The boy becomes so furious with the cap gun that he tries to destroy it.
I realize that my suggestion that guns were bad had impugned him. He felt guilty for liking something that could represent so much harm to the world.

What struck me about the essay was the moment when the boy, as I imagine it, is frantically and furiously trying to destoy the cap gun, a beautiful but futile effort to erase the evidence, the past, and the awful realization that he was guilty of liking something that was Bad and that, ergo, there was Bad in him. I have similar shakey memories of overwhelming feelings of shame and guilt over what I can now see as meaningless circumstances. For example, I was once plagued with self-loathing for weeks because I realized I was being loud while in a graveyard.

In general, we don't talk about the turbulent emotional lives of children and how even normal, nutured children must go through the pain of growing up and making sense of it all. But the one person who unflinchingly address these emotions was Mr. Fred McFeely Rogers. As a child, I never responded to Mr. Rogers Neighbourhood and I would only watch with impatience until the sensory bombardment of Sesame Street started after its closing credits. But after seeing this video of Mr. Rogers speaking before Senate (waxy) and listening to the man on This American Life, I can now openly say that I love this man.

1 comment:

Spitz said...

I *loved* that episode of This American Life, and especially - at the very end - realizing it was Davy Rothbart, the Found magazine guy, asking Mr. Rogers how to solve the problems in his neighbourhood.

Apparently he's (Rothbart) in Toronto tonight. RE the Mr. Rogers video: I despair that this conversation - about what we feed children's brains - doesn't happen anymore.