Unless you’re a turkey . . .

Freedom from Want

If you’re a turkey, please accept my regrets; otherwise here are my very best wishes for a happy Thanksgiving. I’ve even tossed in a few musings for free.

Norman Rockwell was a famous American painter and illustrator whose work enjoyed broad public appeal in the United States for his depiction of mid-twentieth century American culture. He lived and worked in southern Vermont and western Massachusetts for many years and I even had the honor of modeling for him. If you take a look here you’ll catch a glimpse of me already doing what I love to do best.

Just kidding, of course; if I was alive at all, I would be ancient if I was that boy. He’s a cutie though, no doubt about it 🙂

Rockwell is probably best known for the cover illustrations of everyday life he created for The Saturday Evening Post over the course of four decades. Among his best known work was a series called the Four Freedoms, one of which, Freedom from Want, is shown above. You often see this illustration around this time of year for it seems to depict a typical American Thanksgiving scene.

There’s the turkey, of course, and that’s certainly traditional. But if you look a bit more closely you’ll notice that many of the other traditional ingredients that make up an American thanksgiving feast these days are missing. Where are the mashed potatoes, the stuffing, and the gravy? What about the cranberry sauce, the rolls, and the pies?

Rockwell painted in a simpler era, one in which there was less emphasis on lavish meals and material things. There was also a war going on when he painted this particular scene and that was at a time when wars were taken much more seriously than they are today. Perhaps that’s because war actually touched the lives of ordinary American families.

We didn’t have an all-volunteer military force back then. When war came — and of course no one was anxious for war — everyone was expected to chip in and do their part. It was your father, your uncle, your brother or perhaps the boy next door who did the fighting and dying. War was more personal back then, not some abstract notion that only touched a few.

Today things are different. There are people in Washington these days who would rather go to war with Iran than seek a peaceful solution. Indeed, there’s a lot of money to be made from war so we contract it out to a select few and go about business as usual. And just what does business as usual mean in America these days? Well, if what happens later today is any indication, it means shopping, of course.

This is a country where the dollar reigns supreme so are we really surprised when large American retailers like Macy’s and Target open their stores and try to make a buck off the day? In the process, they deprive their workers of time with family and friends. But they’re just the little people after all so who really cares? It’s all about the money to be made. It’s all about the stuff we must be induced to buy.

But enough with the depressing social commentary. Look again at that illustration above. You’ll see lots of smiling faces in that portrait and that’s the message I hope you’ll take away from this posting. To all of my American friends and readers, I hope you’ll spend the day enjoying the company of family, friends and loved ones; better still, some combination of all three.

There are some of you who may be reading this post who might live abroad and will not be celebrating this holiday with us. But I want you to know I’m thinking of you today as well and that one of the things I’m thankful for this Thanksgiving is having so many friends and readers around the world who come visit me every week.

So, unless you’re a turkey (or perhaps a pig for those for whom ham is the traditional meal of the day), have a very happy Thanksgiving and be sure to come back next Monday for the next chapter in our ongoing saga. Or, better still, break out a glass of your favorite drink, pull up a chair, and read the tale all over again. Hopefully, it will wear as well the second time around.

If you’re looking for something a little different, there’s a new biography of Norman Rockwell out. I haven’t read it myself, but I’m looking forward to it. I’m not sure why exactly, but I wonder what it would have been like to have lived in Rockwell’s America. If you’re among those who did, feel free to let me know.


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