Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Have we achieved "freedom from want"?

In his State of the Union address in January, 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt hoped WWII would end with peace that guaranteed four freedoms. One of these was freedom from want, which illustrator Norman Rockwell depicted in this famous painting on the cover of the March 6, 1943, Saturday Evening Post. Rockwell fussed a long time over this picture, concerned it might convey overabundance instead of freedom from want. He often used neighbors and friends as models for his paintings. Mrs. Thaddeus Wheaton, the Rockwell family cook, was the grandmother serving the bird, and Rockwell actually painted the turkey on Thanksgiving day, 1942. "Mrs. Wheaton, our cook, cooked it. I painted it and we ate it," he recalled.

How would the picture look if Rockwell painted it today? Would grandpa be wearing a necktie and coat? Would there be wine or beer on the table? Would everyone be looking at each other, or glancing at "hand-held devices" like cell phones? Would the table be set with the family china? (It's not dishwasher safe.) Would three generations ever be together at the same table? If they were, would they be chatting happily, or watching "the game" on a nearby TV? How many would be absent to take advantage of deep discounts in big box stores on Thanksgiving Day? Would those who came to dinner be laughing, or making plans for Black Friday? What exactly is "freedom from want" in 2016? Maybe it's freedom from wanting more "stuff" in our lives? Maybe it's freedom from discontent. Maybe it's gratitude for each other's love. If so, maybe it's still possible?

1 comment:

  1. I'm here to bear witness that it is still possible. At my home, grandpa (me) would be well dressed, but likely not wearing a suit). There would be 3 generations present. There would be no alcohol at the table, nor electronic devices. (I admit the grandkids are still quite young.)As for the best family china: I have no "best" china, but then no dishwasher either. Do have best fancy family crystal glasses that would certainly be used. The family will all contribute to the after-meal clean-up. There would be laughter and no discussion of black Friday deep discounts either! We're Canadian where maybe we do still generally think a little more about gratitude for abundance of what we have - although the shopping frenzy is an aspect of American commercial culture that we are not completely immune to. In any case, the meal begins with saying grace - which is focused on gratitude.