Where has this man gone?
August 17, 2011 - It's amazing how you can see something for years, then one day, all of the sudden, it inspires you to create.
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That's what happened to me as I gazed at the painting shown right while making some routine phone calls.
For those of you not familiar with it, it's part of a series called the "Four Freedoms," painted by American illustrator Norman Rockwell in 1943. It's called "Freedom of Speech."
It's always been one of my favorite works of art. Honestly, I must have sat and stared at it a thousand times, but I was never inspired to write about it until now.
To me, this painting is the very essence of what American government, particularly at the local level, is supposed to be about.
Take a good look at the man who's speaking. Notice the way he's dressed. He's not wearing a fancy suit with a silk tie; he's dressed in his rumpled work clothes. He probably just came from a long day of laboring on his farm or perhaps at some local factory.
He's not someone pretending to be the common man or trying to relate to the common man, he is the common man.
He's standing up amidst his fellow townspeople, addressing some type of governing board about an issue that's important to him or important to his community.
He's probably nervous about speaking in public, but at the same time, he's also not afraid to speak his mind.
My guess is whatever he's saying isn't very eloquent or polished, but you know it's honest, you know it's based on common sense and you know it's from his heart.
Notice how the folks around him are listening so intently. They seem to genuinely care about what he has to say even though he possesses no degrees, no titles, no expert credentials to speak of. They care about what he has to say because he's their neighbor, he's their friend, he's truly one of them.
I find myself getting lost in a sea of idealism when I stare at this painting. I think this how it was meant to be; this is how it should be. But that wonderful spell is soon broken when my mind dwells on many of the people I deal with on a regular basis in the political realm Ė the two-faced, the cowardly, the deceitful, the apathetic and the easily-led.
I ask myself, "Where has the man in this painting gone?"
He didn't just exist in Rockwell's imagination. He used to be flesh and blood. He used to be us.
CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.