Wednesday, December 11, 2013

In Defense of Norman Rockwell

By Michael Hoffman

 Copyright ©2015

How our enemies despise the world that Norman Rockwell conveyed! In particular the innocence, the family values and the gay old times (before that word was ruined in our time).

We are grateful for the many hours of time-traveling marvels which Mr. Rockwell has afforded us – peering into the window of America's past, when the innocence of children was closely guarded; the machine had not yet devoured our taste, sensibility and proportion; and the permanent Communist revolution which grinds slower under the Republicans and faster under the Democrats – but grinds all the same – was not yet marching so inexorably on behalf of "change," our nation's great god. One Christmas in the mid-1990s we wrote a short story for the season inspired by the Rockwell magazine cover "Shuffleton's Barbershop." 

In November 2013, Farrar, Straus and Giroux published a book, American Mirror: The Life and Art of Norman Rockwell, by the racist anti-goyimite Deborah Solomon, whose hideous libels against gentile artist Rockwell are monstrous to behold. Solomon, who usually wields her poison pen for the New York Times, has a filthy mind, and with her Freudian (or should we say Fraudian) perspective, she claims to have detected a pattern of pedophilia in Rockwell’s nostalgic depictions of boys at play in fields and streams and ponds; on baseball diamonds and football fields; and oh yes, in a physician’s office. In Mr. Rockwell’s beloved scenes of American boyhood, Deborah Solomon believes she has caught a dirty old man, leering and drooling over them. “Solomon is always alert to possible homoerotic themes in Rockwell’s work” (Christopher Benfey).

Solomon puts forth her scurrilous allegations on zero evidence. There is no letter, diary or document of any kind to support her perverted libel. How then can Solomon be so unfair?

In the canonical rabbinic texts that determine the laws which Judaics are to scrupulously obey and observe, the principles of fairness only apply between Judaic persons. “Gentiles do not necessarily respect these principles and, hence, there is no obligation to show them such consideration in return” [Rabbi Ezra Basri, Chief Justice of the District Court of Jerusalem, Ethics of Business (Haktav Press), vol. 2, chapter 13].

Imputations of the inherent moral turpitude of gentiles is a dogma of Orthodox Judaism. The gentile is always suspect (Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 167:15), even when he tries to do good. Rabbi Eliezer Shach was described by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz as “the ultimate authority in the ultra-Orthodox world in Israel for the past quarter of a century.” Rabbi Shach stated in Michtavim uMaamarim, vol. 1: “Regarding this non-Jew, today he shows you a smiling face for some political consideration and within his heart he lays plots...The voice is the voice of Yaakov (Jacob) and the hands are the hands of Eisav (Esau).” 

All gentiles have the status of Esau in the recondite teachings of the rabbis of Orthodox Judaism. They are all suspected of robbery (according to Maimonides, cf. Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 369:6), and murder (Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 168:17). 

Norman Rockwell, by offering to the world a picture of American gentile life in the 20th century suffused with goodness and decency, could not be allowed to continue to enjoy an unsullied reputation. He had to be dragged down into the primeval mud, into the stench and decay where all gentiles are consigned.

Is Deborah Solomon a close student of dogmatic rabbinic texts? Probably not. Is she a product of the culture distilled from that protozoic slime? It would seem so in the case of a benign artist undefiled during his lifetime by the degeneracy nowadays promoted from the White House to the dog house that is our media-driven milieu, and who Solomon felt impelled to defame and reduce to a figure of revulsion.

Prof. Patrick Toner of Wake Forest University has done yeoman work deconstructing Solomon’s libel. We urge you to read “False Portrait," his critique of her book. It can be accessed here.

Michael Hoffman, a former reporter for the New York bureau of the Associated Press, is the author of eight books of history and literature, including Judaism Discovered


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Rick Malibu said...

Thank you, Mr. Hoffman, for this article. Having just recently visited the Norman Rockwell museum, the timing of my finding this was perfect. I'm not familiar with Ms. Solomon's book, but I'd like to take a peek at it, after which I can then deem her quite insane. I'm speechless at the moment, still trying to process what I read, but I wanted you to know that I read and appreciated what you wrote. Best wishes~ Edward.

Jane Allen Petrick said...

May I suggest that an important aspect of Rockwell's work that does reflect a real and ongoing concern in American life has been strangely overlooked in virtually all commentary on the man.
If Norman Rockwell was depressed about anything, it was about the level of social injustice in the world and, what seemed to him, his often thwarted or "hidden" attempts to confront it. My book on Rockwell,"Hidden in Plain Sight: The Other People in Norman Rockwell's America" which also came out this fall (to much less fanfare than Solomon's), addresses this theme. The back cover quotes Rockwell: "I just wanted to do something important."
Failure to address this very salient aspect of Rockwell's life and work until now might just be another example of a reluctance to turn any mirror on troubling, "non-artsy" issues like race.