Betraying The Helpers

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When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

Fred Rogers

It’s a beautiful quote from an amazing man, but as Ian Bogost says so well, its message is targeted at frightened children, in an effort help comfort them during difficult situations:

We must stop fetishizing Rogers’s advice to “look for the helpers” as if it had ever been meant for us, the people in charge—even in moments when so many of us feel powerless. As an adult, it feels good to remember how Mr. Rogers made you feel good as a child. But celebrating that feeling as adults takes away the wrong lesson. A selfish one. We were entrusted with these insights to make children’s lives better, not to comfort ourselves for having failed to fashion the adult world in which they must live.

Ian Bogost

As I wrote a few weeks ago, churches excel at springing into action after a tragedy, showing fantastic displays of love through meal deliveries, calls for prayer, well-deserved spotlighting of first responders/medical professionals and more. I’ve seen it countless times with the death of loved ones and in the aftermath of natural disasters.

COVID-19 is no exception in this regard, but wildly different in another.

By shining a spotlight on (and expressing heartfelt gratitude to) the doctors, nurses and other on-the-ground heroes with one hand, but using the other to amplify messages from the science-denying, misinformation-spouting orange elephant in the room (or not calling out his dangerous rhetoric for fear of causing offense), they’re not only ensuring that we’ll keep experiencing preventable deaths, but are also actively putting our “helpers” in even more danger.

Here’s one of yesterday’s tweets from President Trump, disregarding the advice of his health advisors, risking countless lives and spitting in the face of the brave professionals working on the front lines, just to score political points with his conspiracy theory-primed base:

Here’s the thing, evangelicals: You can yoke yourself to Trumpism, or you can raise your voice in support of the helpers. You cannot do both.