Saturday, June 06, 2009

A Norman Rockwell America

Was life more dangerous in the old days? And, if it was, did that make it more fun?

Placed below is a portion of Norman Rockwell's 1947 painting Going and Coming. Rockwell is famous for depicting positive scenes of American life in a way that reflected realism and caricature, and this painting is no different. In it, a family -- including the dog and Grandma -- are going out on a fine day to have some fun at a nearby body of water, and you can tell they eagerly anticipate that fun.

But that was the 1940s. They would have had a blast, for sure, but if this scene were to play out today, I don't think they would have had as much fun. That's because the first police car they passed would pull them over and cite them for numerous activities that were once ignored but are now against the law because they are too dangerous. For example:

1. No one's wearing a seatbelt. I don't think there is any jurisdiction in the United States today where it isn't required for at least the driver and front seat passenger to buckle up. However you may feel about mandatory seatbelt usage, the laws were enacted to protect you.

2. The youngest child is not in a car seat. In fact, she's in her mother's lap. Again, the law says you must have young children in car seats for their protection, and it doesn't matter if you're Britney Spears either.

3. Dad is smoking in the car. It's not yet illegal to smoke in your own car with children present, but there are some state legislators who want to make it so. In any case, there is a whole raft of anti-smoking laws everywhere that restrict the use of tobacco because it's viewed as dangerous.

These activities were innocent back in the day, but they are frowned upon (at the very least) today because others are watching out for our safety. We may be more safe these days, but are we having as much fun?

And would Norman Rockwell have as much to paint about?

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