What would Norman Rockwell paint for 2021?

By John Green

This holiday season, I’ve used my downtime to reflect on the events of the past year.  We have much to be thankful for, despite the issues we’ve faced.  We are all recipients of God’s blessings.  Those blessings include our God-given rights as enshrined in our Constitution.  But events of the past year have shown us to be on a dangerous path.  Men with small minds seem determined to challenge the gifts granted us by our maker.

One such gift is the right to express ourselves.  It was famously depicted by Norman Rockwell in his painting, “Freedom of Speech.”  The painting became world-famous when it was used on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post in February of 1943.  It depicted a lone man, still in his dirty clothes from a hard day at work, standing up to local city officials to express his disagreement with their plans.  The painting is a powerful statement.  In America, every citizen, regardless of social status, has a right to be heard and treated with courtesy and respect.

How would Norman Rockwell have depicted 2021?  Would the lone speaker be standing tall and confident, knowing that he would suffer no retribution for his words?  Or would the artist somehow depict his emotions, knowing that he is placing himself at great personal risk of being canceled from his livelihood and social associations?

If the painting were done in 2021, would the police be handcuffing the speaker?  The past twelve months have shown that daring to speak “truth to power” can get one charged with creating a public disturbance — even in a forum created to entertain dissenting voices.

In a modern-day version of the painting, would the speaker be surrounded by fellow citizens listening respectfully to his words?  Or would Mr. Rockwell find a way to depict him surrounded by FBI informants?


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