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Norman Rockwell’s Communist Sympathies


November 28, 2013

Was Norman Rockwell a Communist sympathizer?

What an odd question, you may think to yourself. Your answer may be, “Of course not, why, Norman Rockwell was as American as apple pie and pizza.” After all, Rockwell has been called ‘America’s Favorite Illustrator.’ He was an emotionally engaged observer who chronicled everyday American life throughout the mid-20th Century with affection and great skill. His paintings are the most memorable and iconic to come out of the “greatest generation.” To utter the name Norman Rockwell is to whisper “America.” Maybe.

Freedom_from_want-1.jpg communism

It is instructive to understand from what source the inspiration for Rockwell’s most famous paintings, “The Four Freedoms,” came.

– Franklin Delano Roosevelt,
excerpted from the Annual Message to the Congress,
January 6, 1941

In the future days which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.

The first is freedom of speech and expression — everywhere in the world.
The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way — everywhere in the world.
The third is freedom from want, which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants — everywhere in the world.
The fourth is freedom from fear, which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor — anywhere in the world.
That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation. That kind of world is the very antithesis of the so-called new order of tyranny which the dictators seek to create with the crash of a bomb.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt was a Progressive in the tradition of John Dewey and Woodrow Wilson. He was of the Progressive school of thought that government itself was the engine of a nation, that people served the government so the government could then care for the needs of the people–the very model of Socialism. We know this as much through FDR’s deeds as his words; the exhaustive alphabet soup of government programs that came out of the New Deal: AAA, CCC, CWA, FLSA, TVA, WPA, and dozens in between. He gave us the dysfunctional behemoth, Social Security. He exacerbated the scope and longevity of the Great Depression with his Keynesian economic policies. FDR grew government big, real big.

It is this which makes the last two Freedom Paintings suspect: Freedom from Want and Freedom from Fear. Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Worship are some of the most dear of our enumerated constitutional rights. They are intrinsic to Americanism and are natural facets of human liberty. But where the heck are the rights to not want for anything and the right to be fear free to be found in the first 10 Articles. I think some Communist made them up.

In Marx’s writings on Historical Materialism it is the asserted role of the state to provide an economic system in which there is no competition and, theoretically, no scarcity. The model of Communism provides for state control of the means of production and distribution, with the idea that no one would ever want for anything. This, of course, is the lie of the millennium, but heck, it sounds good. People shouldn’t have to want for anything. Golly gee, it is a nice big government that makes sure everyone has everything they could ever need. Who wouldn’t want a gargantuan government-issue turkey on their Thanksgiving table?

Karl Marx purported that the state should have the power to do many things, such a eliminating the fear of exploitation. Other tenets of Communism attempt to take fear out of the equation: universal health care, a job, housing, food, education, all run by the government, thereby eliminating the human anxiety of having to earn, provide for, and protect oneself. FDR extended this into the “freedom from fear” of physical aggression by a foreign enemy. (Remember Pearl Harbor, ya’ll) In Rockwell’s Freedom from Fear we see two concerned parents tucking their sleeping children into the safety of their bed. Did Rockwell really think that FDR’s policies could keep the boogeymen out from under the kiddie’s beds?

Norman Rockwell worked to the extremity for six months on the Four Freedoms. They were finally published in 1943 by The Saturday Evening Post. But while Rockwell was doing a Michelangelo, his inspiration, FDR, was trying to figure out how to take down and re-build the United States Constitution. In FDR’s 1944 State of the Union Speech he schooled Americans on the virtues of big government. “Necessitous men are not free men,” said he. And he went on to enumerate his “Second Bill of Rights.” This consists of the positive rights that say what government must do. These are the most dangerous rights of all.

In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all regardless of station, race, or creed. (this from the man who segregated the military)

Among these are:

The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the Nation
The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation
The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living
The fight of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad
The right of every family to a decent home
The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health
The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment
The right to a good education

Do I really think Norman Rockwell was a Communist sympathizer? Nuts! He was just a dupe, like so many who were, and who still are, deceived by FDR’s helping hand of big government. In 2011 American we are living the consequences of FDR’s brand of progressive Socialism. The poor are still with us, government is still inefficient and wasteful, the national debt is bleeding the lifeblood out of the economy, and his big government schemes–those which he implemented and those of which he could only dream–Social Security, unemployment insurance, Medicare, universal health care, nearly 20% of Americans on government food programs, and heaps of intrusive government regulation, are dooming prosperity for generations to come.

Norman Rockwell could not have known how the ideas that so enamored him, Freedom from Want and Freedom from Fear, would become ideas that are making the America he painted a thing of memory. Norman Rockwell’s America is being destroyed by the notions, which 70 years ago, seemed to him so very charming, so very…American.

By Marjorie Haun 11/28/2013

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