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There are a lot of reviews of last night’s Palin vs. Biden debate; this isn’t one of them. This is a review of a review, or at least of part of one. In reading the reviews this morning, one particular passage just annoyed me, and it was by (of course) David Brooks in the New York Times, in his description of Governor Palin’s performance:

Thursday night she spoke like a normal person. It took her about 15 seconds to define her persona — the straight-talking mom from regular America — and it was immediately clear that the night would be filled with tales of soccer moms, hockey moms, Joe Sixpacks, main-streeters, "you betchas" and "darn rights." Somewhere in heaven Norman Rockwell is smiling.

And I immediately thought to myself, "Norman Rockwell is not smiling". And it's not just because even the average Norman Rockwell illustration is a little more substantive than the folksy veneer presented by Governor Palin and praised by Brooks. No, it’s because of a painting like Norman Rockwell’s "The Problem We All Live With" - which you can see at this link.

Why is that, you ask? It goes back to Governor Palin’s troubling response to Katie Couric when asked if there were any Supreme Court decisions (other than Roe v. Wade) that she disagreed with:

Couric: What other Supreme Court decisions do you disagree with?

Palin: Well, let's see. There's, of course in the great history of America there have been rulings, that's never going to be absolute consensus by every American. And there are those issues, again, like Roe v. Wade, where I believe are best held on a state level and addressed there. So you know, going through the history of America, there would be others but ...

Couric: Can you think of any?

Palin: Well, I could think of ... any again, that could be best dealt with on a more local level. Maybe I would take issue with.

When I hear a conservative talk about issues that are "best held on a state level" or "best dealt with on a local level", I can’t help but think of the long struggle to bring civil rights to every person in United States. From school desegregation to voting rights to treating people as human beings in places of public accommodation, these efforts were always fought by people arguing that the federal government was interfering with a "local issue".

Norman Rockwell's painting depicts Ruby Bridges being escorted to school by Federal marshals in New Orleans in 1960. A Federal Court had ordered that the New Orleans schools could no longer remain segregated. There was local opposition, to put it mildly:

Charles Burks, one of the U.S. marshals who escorted Bridges and her mother into the school building, remembers the little girl who became a hero.

"She showed a lot of courage. She never cried. She didn't whimper. She just marched along like a little soldier. And we're all very proud of her."

The first year, all the parents of Frantz Elementary pulled their children out of school to protest the integration. As a result, Ruby Bridges spent her first year in a class of one. The teacher, a woman from Boston, was one of the few white instructors who was willing to teach a black child. She and Bridges showed up for school every single day that year, and they held class as if there were no angry mob outside, no conflict over a little girl attending first grade.

Norman Rockwell illustrated the violent reaction of those who opposed this Federal interference with a "local issue", not only by showing a wall splattered with a thrown tomato, or the "N word" scrawled on that wall, but by the need for the four, tall, resolute and ready Federal marshals surrounding the young Ruby.

In depicting a stoic little girl, being escorted through a phalanx of hate, Norman Rockwell vividly illustrated that the real American values were those of Ruby Bridges and her champions, and not the people who thought that the Federal government was interfering with their "local issues". So, on balance, I do not think that Governor Palin’s use of a few "betchas" or "darn rights" would make Norman Rockwell smile.

Originally posted to Cautious Man on Fri Oct 03, 2008 at 10:45 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

    •  How could this not be on the rec list? (0+ / 0-)

      I found your diary backasswards.  I was reading the Brooks column and started thinking about the line, "Somewhere in heaven Norman Rockwell is smiling."  So, I started googling and there you were.

      This is a very emotional diary that hit me right here.  If I cry in movies (which I do) it is always due to someone who strives and fails.  I cry not because of the movie but because of the thousands or millions of real people it portrays.  Wow.  And, thanks.  And, I do remember that painting.

      I would amend the statement to, "Somewhere in New York, David Brooks is crying".  I think that he doesn't really like McCain or Palin and this whole thing is a slap in the face to thinking Republicans like Brooks, who this week, wrote an article through clenched teeth ...  

  •  what looks to Brooks like a smile (8+ / 0-)

    looks to the rest of us like the wince of kidney stone pain.  This, too, shall pass, thank god, on 2009 Jan 20.

    (-8.00,-7.85) 'My God! It's full of falme!'

    by bubbanomics on Fri Oct 03, 2008 at 10:46:41 AM PDT

  •  THANK YOU! (6+ / 0-)

    I get stares from people when I say that Norman Rockwell is my favorite artist.  This is the painting I always cite.

  •  A print of this painting... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LynneK, alliedoc, litoralis hangs in my dad's home office.

    It speaks more about American values than Sarah Palin will ever understand.


    Palin at the Repub Convention: "It was like watching Gidget address the Reichstag" - Matt Taibbi

    by deepfish on Fri Oct 03, 2008 at 10:51:58 AM PDT

  •  Does David Brooks get listerine by the case (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    For all the Republican cock he has to swallow?

    Sent from a Blackberry, a miracle made possible and invented by John McCain

    by Larry Madill on Fri Oct 03, 2008 at 10:52:43 AM PDT

  •  Rockwell (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    johanus, alliedoc, litoralis

    was an American genius.  This diary is wonderful and makes a scathing point.  Republicans don't get to co-opt American values just because their candidate can throw out some hometown flavor.  Well done.

  •  I read the Brooks article this morning (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    johanus, alliedoc, Night Train

    and remember thinking to myself how pathetic he sounded.  He fails so miserably at trying to appear even tenuously connected to 'Joe Six-Pack' on any level whatsoever.  There have been so many examples of conservative pundits trying to convey their empathy to 'regular Americans' and what resonates with them.  This was one of the most laughably pathetic attempts I've ever read.

  •  That was deep. A good diary. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    johanus, alliedoc
  •  Nice catch! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I know the painting well, having worked on the Rockwell show at the Guggenheim Museum a few years back. From what we know of Rockwell's own feelings in the later part of his life, he would have retched at Brooks' comment ((There are a number of snarky swipes in the background of the painting that weren't intended to be picked up in reproduction).

    "Museum, Inc: Inside the Global Art World" (University of Chicago Press). "Musée et cie : Globalisation de la culture" (The Orange Press).

    by Paul Werner on Fri Oct 03, 2008 at 11:08:01 AM PDT

  •  If you would (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    alliedoc, litoralis

    like some additional insight from another great American on the crucible that was New Orleans in 1962, may I suggest John Steinbeck's Travels with Charley in Search of America?

    Steinbeck gives an eyewitness account of watching that brave child enter the school accompanied by her escorts.  It is chilling.  Even more so, is his account of the young white father escorting his child through the chanting, screaming, manic crowd that gathered each day, twice a day outside the school to spew their vitriol.  

    Steinbeck left the area hurridly, noting,

    "...I knew I was not wanted in the South. When people are engaged in something they are not proud of, they do not welcome witnesses. In fact, they come to believe the witness causes the trouble.

    He writes about the only black family in Salinas, CA, where he grew up.  He speaks of them admiringly, noting that Mr. Cooper was one of the few Salina residents who never let a bill pass the 15th of the month.  He observes of the Cooper children (3 boys)

    I realize now that there was something else about the Coopers that set them apart from other Negroes I have seen and met since. Because they were not hurt or insulted, they were not defensive or combative. Because their dignity was intact, they had no need to be overbearing, and because the Cooper boys had never heard that they were inferior, their minds could grow to their true limits

    Please give this under-appreciated classic a look, and if you've read it before, revisit it.  Steinbeck's observations on America and the American character remain as valid today as they did nearly 50 years ago.

    John McCain = George W. Bush - shorter, uglier and a $hitload meaner!

    by luvsathoroughbred on Fri Oct 03, 2008 at 11:24:46 AM PDT

  •  Nicely done and I thank you for pointing it out. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
  •  I met Norman Rockwell's sculptor son (0+ / 0-)

    years ago (he lives here in Rome). He was a friend of a friend of mine (he did a sculpture of her when she was pregnant, too), and had been at a couple of parties/social functions she'd invited me to.

    I'm going to look up his e-mail address, send him a link to your diary (and the David Brooks piece), and ask if he might want to add anything to what you've said, or maybe make a comment of his own.

    I don't know if he'll reply: mind you, I'm talking about something like 30 years ago, and I definitely don't expect him to remember me! But it would be interesting to hear an opinion directly from the son of the horse's mouth, wouldn't it?

    "Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on or by imbeciles who really mean it." - Mark Twain

    by Donna in Rome on Fri Oct 03, 2008 at 11:33:17 AM PDT

  •  Props to Norman Rockwell (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Never again am I going to use him as an example of insipid pollyana banality.

    Palin/McCain: Building the Suspension Bridge to Nowhere.

    by sproingie on Fri Oct 03, 2008 at 11:40:42 AM PDT

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