Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Will Americans sit on the porch?

    Presidential candidate Warren G. Harding did not need to rush from place to place when he campaigned in 1920.
    He understood what his constituents wanted. They were not in a hurry. They were sick and tired, tired of involvement in a foreign war with 54,000 American boys dead, tired from the flu epidemic killing 50 million worldwide, and sick and tired of the threat of being inundated by immigrants with different values than the values of rural America. Harding’s was the Democratic party of “Rum, Romanism, and Rebellion” according to Republicans of the time.
    Harding sat on his front porch, issued his opinions, and watched his small-town world go by, promising Americans that if they voted for him, he would return the country to “normalcy,” an invented word evoking normal and nostalgic.
    Normalcy speaks directly to all that was good and peaceful in the rural past. Norman Rockwell was the Rembrandt of normalcy, who described what he painted as a picture of small-town America the way it was supposed to be, but not necessarily the way it ever had been.
    Normalcy was not for everybody. Harding’s constituents did not want to be bothered with cries for justice from women or African-Americans, nor were Catholics or Jews or immigrants included in normalcy.
    As Americans go into the final stages of the 2012 presidential campaign, voters will have to decide whether the nation should sit on its front porch with Harding.
    Is the country too tired to look for opportunities to push the boundaries from what has been to what can be? Will we keep the promises we make every time we say the Pledge of Allegiance, not of normalcy but of liberty and justice for all?

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