“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.’”
It was Fred Rogers who once shared those words, trying to help young children deal with the horrors and downright terror that can all-too-often flash on our television screens in the form of the evening news.
Of course, I dated myself a little with that reference. The “evening news” is now a 24-7, opinion-fueled, riches-go-to-the-loudest forum that has spread from the confines of the family television to mobile news sites in the palm of our hands. The one-sided torrents of hate that have infiltrated our brains get re-released by individuals on their social media feeds — resulting in these sites transforming from their roots of bringing people together to gladiator forums fueled by hate, misinformation and a little more hate, with the result predictably being people ripped further apart.
Go ahead. Ask me how I really feel.
Mr. Rogers’ advice could seem a little “Pollyannaish,” in that it would appear to suggest we should close our eyes and minds to the realities before us, as opposed to taking a cold, hard look at the situation and adjusting accordingly. I get that. And I agree that those who have fanned the flames of this combustible cocktail of hatred need to see with clear eyes what is happening and better get a handle on it.
In fact, we all need to understand what we’re seeing so we can make informed decisions going forward with our votes and energies. What we saw on Wednesday, Jan. 6, should be burned into our memory banks, and the way we felt while watching it unfold should never be erased by simply closing our eyes and “wishing it away.”
But it’s also important that we do “look for the helpers” in these situations. It’s critical that we remember that things sometimes go horrifically wrong, and when they do, there are people who jump in to help — and that we all possess the ability to do the right thing, even when nothing at all seems right about the situation we can find ourselves in at any given time.
And this brings me to Eugene Goodman, an officer with the U.S. Capitol Police.
By now you’ve probably seen the video clips and photos of Goodman during the storm/riot/filth-fest surrounding the invasion of the Capitol building. As the crowd reached a landing, Goodman arrived and looked at a hallway to his left, according to Huffington Post’s Igor Bobic, via a CNN.com article. The door to the Senate chambers was down that hallway.
Goodman apparently decided at that moment, as he was hopelessly outnumbered, that his best course of action would be to treat himself like a trail of breadcrumbs, and he baited the insurrectionists into following him to the right. At that time, backup officers arrived, according to Bobic, who added that this was at 2:14 p.m. — just one minute after Senators were alerted that protestors had breached the building.
According to a story in the Washington Post, Goodman’s actions gave police the time to lock the doors to the Senate chamber. Were lives saved by this? We really don’t know what would have happened. But it’s safe to assume that the likelihood of more people being injured or killed was reduced thanks to his actions.
Scott Peters, a Democratic Congressman from California, tweeted, “Officer Eugene Goodman strategically led an angry mob from the Senate floor during last week’s insurrection. His courage & decisive action likely saved lives. We owe Officer Goodman & many other law enforcement officers who kept us safe that day a debt of gratitude.”
In a sea of anger, frustration and fear, Goodman was a light — leading potential danger away from those he had sworn to protect, and displaying courage, honor and commitment during a time when many were figuratively losing their heads around him.
We live in tumultuous times, and it seems that one event, or one new reality we have to face, puts more pressure on all of us, while adding to the general frustration many of us feel today. There is a deadly virus that has swept the world, hyper-partisan politics, racial upheaval and the ability to lash out at whoever we want, whenever we choose to, simply by taking a phone out of our pockets and “dropping the hammer.”
It’s a dangerous cocktail, to be sure, and nobody has really been spared from all that is going on around us. Both major parties have divided into separate camps of moderates and extremists, and businesses have suffered from a pandemic-annihilated economy and their employees have often suffered right along with them — and much more so in many instances. Children have had to try to learn remotely, families have been separated over the holidays, and I simply can’t get my hair to behave, no matter what I try.
But I digress.
So, yeah, it’s still a good idea to look for the helpers. Otherwise, we miss the really good stuff in life — you know, like Officer Eugene Goodman.