Sunday, February 3, 2013

Happy Birthday Norman Rockwell

Yes, the real reason I couldn't let today go by without a blog.  It's Normal Rockwell's birthday!  The Great One was born this very day, ready to bring a take on American life that still resonates even after all these years.  Growing up, Rockwell often was portrayed along with Ozzie and Harriet as a euphemism for 'everything that sucks about America'.  The big lie, the propaganda, the pie-in-the sky exceptionalism   Just like old Ozzie, Norman painted fanciful notions of a perfect America where all was well, problems were denied, and ignorance, naivety, or outright denial were the way all America loving patriots dealt with the ugly truth.  It was a tactic common to a nation that refused to admit to its problems and failings, that insisted it was the only nation in the world worth anything, and that refused to deal with the harsh realities of real life.

Except, of course, it wasn't.  It never dawned on me until I became an adult that Ozzie Nelson was quite aware of life's hardships.  He knew full well what it was to struggle in a marriage, deal with bills, grieve over loved ones.  He understood how rough life is.  Who doesn't?  Certainly not the people of the Depression and World War II.  Certainly not people who served in the First World War.  Just because they chose to strive for the better side of life, to see the potential of human beings rather than focus on the worst  doesn't mean they were unaware of the worst.  Just because they chose to look at cups half full and dwell there meant they saw value in the positive, not that they were unaware of a negative.

Ironic that many shows today indulge in a single minded sermonizing that would shame the old stereotypes  because in many ways, modern progressivsm is everything that old time American conservatism was accused of being but wasn't.  So shows like Glee and networks like MTV promote almost fairy tale ideals of modern liberal values, shamelessly avoiding the negatives  and almost singularly focused on advocating their morals in a way that even Ozzie Nelson would find ham-fisted.

The same is true with Mr. Rockwell.  Derided by some of the hipper students and professors in my younger days as a liar with paints,  I didn't realize until much later how closer to reality Rockwell was than many of those students and professors.  Sure, he could be whimsical.  Yes, he could be humorous   But it was often humor with truth.  And while he looked at the better side of Americans, he wasn't afraid to be brutally honest.  One of my ongoing themes is just how much of a big, fat lie the thing known as liberalism was, at least the liberalism I grew up with.  I shake my head at just how so many liberal movements today are everything liberals of old railed against.  A former colleague once said he couldn't figure me out, who I voted for, where I stood.  I said it's easy.  I am a liberal in search of liberalism, because the thing out there that passes for liberalism has more to do with old, false stereotypes of American Conservatism than anything to do with the lofty promises of yesterday's liberals.


Some more doses of reality about America's religious habits

One of the best self portraits

This hung in my childhood doctor's office; one of Rockwell's wise and kindly adults series

I bought a print of this for my Mom, the humor and point was well taken

Growing up, it was Rockwell type Conservatives who were seen as the threat to free speech

Willing to inflict the comfortable, not just skate by in an illusionary world

Some more of his 'all adults aren't evil' prints; one of my favorites

The real perceptions of Rockwell, far more honest than our Glee-infected look at modern progressive values

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