Chuck Norris. Remember him?
Guns carried him for protection. Cars looked both ways to make sure he wasn’t crossing the street. Sasquatch claimed he once saw him. The monsters under your bed would always check under their beds to make sure he wasn’t hiding there.
When Chuck Norris was born he drove his mom to the hospital. He was once bitten by a cobra and after five days of excruciating pain the cobra died. He could strangle you with a cordless phone. He could play Russian Roulette with a fully loaded revolver and win every time. When the zombie apocalypse came it would be the zombies trying to survive.
Chuck Norris, erstwhile star of “Walker Texas Ranger”, exploded into our collective consciousness a little over a decade ago. Thanks to a running gag on Late Night with Conan O’Brien and a joke website looking for a replacement Vin Diesel, the Chuck Norris legend was born. “Chuck Norris Facts” were all over the place on social media, which back then was in its infancy.
In those days, we as a nation were reeling from 9/11, the Great Recession, and the unexpected aftermath of the Iraq War. We desperately needed a hero who was invincible and who never made a mistake, to be both our savior and our representative. Chuck Norris fit the bill perfectly.
But times changed, as they are wont to do. The Recession passed (sort of), and we have now put 9/11 and the Iraq War behind us (for the most part). And so, like every internet meme, Chuck Norris dropped off the radar screen of our collective consciousness after he had run his course.
Now here we are in 2017 and we find ourselves facing a completely different set of challenges. Donald Trump has ascended to the presidency on the strength of a message of unmitigated anger and hatred for all who are not privileged straight Christian white males, with the backing of his jacked-up Neo-Nazi thug supporters and an evangelicalism that has sold itself out to join them. Liberals are now perfectly OK with shooting up Republican congressmen. (So not a good look for the tradition of Voltaire’s “I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”.) Police shootings, racially-motivated terror attacks, and protests dominate the news. Social media is now a shitshow of outrage and rancorousness. Hatred, prejudice, and misunderstanding seem to be reaching epidemic levels.
In this day and age, we need a different kind of hero. Into the void steps Mister Rogers, paragon of undeniable goodness in a world gone batshit crazy.
Who is Mister Rogers? you ask. Some things should never have to be said yet here we are. If you grew up watching PBS at any point during the last half century or longer, you know who Mister Rogers is. Chill dude who always wore cardigans and went on for a half-hour or thereabouts about wanting to be your neighbor.
Recently a story from last year of how Mister Rogers challenged racist assumptions by asking Officer Clemmons, a black police officer, to share a wading pool with him to cool off their feet, has been making the rounds of the internet. After last month’s attacks in Manchester, writer Anthony Breznican tweeted his story of meeting Mister Rogers in the flesh and it went viral.
Now it’s come to making up facts about Mister Rogers:
Mjolnir was Thor’s hammer in the Marvel comics and films, and it could only be lifted by one who was worthy. In this day and age, that person is Mister Rogers.
A decade ago we were reeling from 9/11 and the Great Recession, and we needed Chuck Norris to singlehandedly take down all the bad guys with his bare hands and inspire us to keep fighting no matter how bad it got. But now we live in an age where everything is politicized and polarized and if you won’t shut up and get in line and support our Donald Trump then get over there with Hillary and Bernie and all the devils of hell. We don’t need a hero who is unstoppable in his strength, we need a hero who is undeniable in his goodness. We don’t need someone who will take out all the bad guys and never make a mistake, we need someone who will bring comfort and challenge misconceptions. We don’t need someone to inspire us to keep fighting, we need someone to inspire us to believe that love is worth fighting for and that love will win in the end.