Casting Stones At Monet
If we are honest with ourselves, America's family portrait is less Norman Rockwell and more Claude Monet, for our society only begins to make sense when it is looked at not with the intricate inspection of each individual detail, but rather with the perspective of distance and how the nasty smears all play together. And yet we cherish and fervently defend the notion that we are a Rockwell family, we long for those good old days that never were. We scoff and cast stones at the suggestion that our portrait may be a Monet, that our individual lives, in their imprecise imperfection, somehow all fit together to make something that, from a distance is strangely beautiful but up close makes no sense at all.
The politicians we elect, or at least those who are consistently successful, are those who can judge the type of lie we currently want to hear and deliver it with passion and conviction. Read my lips, we are a society which demands to hear our truths packaged and processed, with a special emphasis on presentation. But as much as we cherish a good liar, as much as we elevate those wizards of spin-politics and elevate-me-religion and cut throat Capitalism who can perpetuate the illusions of what we want to hear (to their benefit if not our own), we are just as damning against those who are caught in this self same deceit. We react much like Captain Renault in Casablanca, shocked, shocked, to discover that gambling (or dishonesty or opportunism) is taking place in Rick's Cafe American, as the croupier delivers our evening's winnings.
Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote in the Scarlet Letter, "No man for any considerable period can wear one face to himself and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which may be the true".
We ask our heroes to wear a public mask painted by Rockwell and then become disillusioned should it fall off to reveal the smudge and imperfection of Monet. What we've refused to accept is that this face of humanity mirrors our own and, when viewed in proper perspective, has a beauty all its own. Each word spoken and each action taken by a public figure cannot be not dissected and inspected like a brush stroke on a canvas. Our lives, as well as the lives of public figures, need to be given the grace of a Monet perspective, given distance and evaluated in the context of the whole. While Rockwell hangs well on a wall for inspiration, our lives hang out to dry when constantly inspected in minutia.
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