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A new exhibit of works by Norman Rockwell (from the collections of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg) has opened up at the Smithsonian, and the WaPo’s Blake Glopnik apparently could not think of a better way to celebrate the Fourth of July than thoroughly trashing it:

Most reactions to Rockwell [……] continue to be decidedly simpler. Steven Spielberg has said, “I look back at these paintings as America the way it could have been, the way someday it may again be.” He and others have bought Rockwell’s bill of goods. But what these speakers, and these pictures, fail to grasp is that the special, courageous greatness of the nation lies in its definitive refusal of any single “American way.”

America isn’t about Rockwell’s one-note image of it — or anyone else’s. This country is about a game-changing guarantee that equal room will be made for Latino socialists, disgruntled lesbian spinsters, foul-mouthed Jewish comics and even, dare I say it, for metrosexual half-Canadian art critics with a fondness for offal, spinets and kilts.

I don’t want to live by the clichés of a wan, Rockwellian America, and I don’t admire pictures that suggest that all of us should.

In fact, I believe it’s safe to say that Mr. Glopnick doesn’t believe anyone should live by what he calls the clichés of a wan, Rockwellian America.

Look, I don’t have any particular brief for Rockwell myself (and it speaks volumes of Lucas and Spielberg that they think him so eminently collectible).  But I get very tired of this sort of progressivist mau-mauing, this effort to not only defy a common American culture, but to insist that there is not, should not, and never has been one to begin with, and to bully any white-bread Middle Amurican knuckle-dragger who might think otherwise.


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July 2010