After a long and mostly sleepless night, Donya and I woke Sunday morning surprisingly refreshed and resolved to make the most of the next seven days. I had mapped out the places we wanted to visit.
First up, Stockbridge, MA, and the Norman Rockwell Museum.
America! Lost and Found…
Norman Rockwell has always been a favorite of ours. When we first began this marital journey, Donya included three or four Rockwell prints in our home’s decor. Neither of us can remember what became of them. Somewhere along the way they were lost or sold or given away. Nevertheless, we would not pass on the chance to see the Rockwell Museum. We made that stop number one on our tour of New England. This was a great decision.
I grew up with an idyllic view of American history. The Founding Fathers were heroes, giants among men, champions of freedom, willing to risk life and property to establish a nation of laws, free from tyranny, free to worship according to the dictates of conscience, free to pursue individual dreams.
I read an article this morning that began with the phrase, “America has always been bad.” It made me sad and a little sick to read this. I thought it sad that a person enjoying the comforts and freedom afforded by the Constitution, its creators, and its defenders could find nothing good in the dream she so “reluctantly” lives.
I prefer the Frenchman de Tocqueville’s belief that “America is great because America is good.”
America is not perfect. She has tolerated injustice and cruelty. America is not good the way God is good. America is good because she is committed to the ideals of a democratic Republic. She is good because the man who could have been king and potentate (Washington) would not. She is good because the men who forged her system refused to centralize and then assume all of the power. She is good because she believes in the protection of those who fall outside the majority. She is good because she does not sacrifice the value of an individual for the “common good.” She is good because she recognized in her formation that God alone is great and good and that His precepts are divine and His promises true.
Rockwell’s America…and mine, too!
I love America the way I believed her to be in my innocence.
I love America the way Norman Rockwell saw and portrayed her. The most prolific illustrator (his preferred title) in history delivered a wide-eyed innocence, a love for life and liberty, an inclusive and pervasive message of hope. He saw the American spirit as worthy to be praised and preserved, captured in moments, pressed into memories.
Preparing for this piece, I scoured the Internet, reading several articles regarding Rockwell’s work. I found some that celebrate him and recognize him as a seminal figure in the forging of America as we know (or knew) it. I found others more cynical and caustic. Some went so far as to depict Rockwell as a repressed homosexual with a thing for young boys. (My gut response: Project much?)
“Without thinking too much about it in specific terms, I was showing the America I knew and observed to others who might not have noticed. My fundamental purpose is to interpret the typical American. I am a storyteller.”
Reading the various views on Rockwell and his work, I recognized that woven into the history of this and every nation in human history is the division and disagreement over what constitutes “good” and “great.”
For more than 40 years, Rockwell worked as illustrator for the Saturday Evening Post. The sheer volume of work produced is staggering. While his art evolved in quality over that period of time, there is a common thread, a singular, hopeful view of the America he saw and loved.
Rockwell said, “Without thinking too much about it in specific terms, I was showing the America I knew and observed to others who might not have noticed. My fundamental purpose is to interpret the typical American. I am a storyteller.”
Rockwell saw what Leila Ettachfini, author of the above-referenced article about the badness of America, missed. He was determined to show the Leilas of the world that there is an inherent goodness in the America of our forefathers, the America forged in blood and sacrifice, the America built on the essential principles of the Golden Rule and Ten Commandments.
A nice recovery…and precious memories
Talk about a good way to recover from a bad start to our summer vacation! We were back on track and ready to travel. And travel we would on this lazy Sunday. Three hundred, twenty-three miles, to be exact.
The next stop was not planned. We just needed a break from driving. To see the unexpected gem we found, stay tuned.
Part Three is coming.