Thursday, July 30, 2009

Is the Farnsworth House a Commie Plot?

If you live long enough (I'm 58), very little sounds new to you.

Much of the right's rhetoric today reminds me of the fifties and sixties, when 'liberal' was just a polite way to say 'communist.' One big difference then was that the right regarded both major parties as dominated by out-of-touch eastern elitists. It would be hard for any conservative to maintain that today, considering conservative dominance of the Republican Party.

As some of you may know, I am a volunteer tour guide at the Farnsworth House here in the Chicago area. Even before it was built, some people hated the Farnsworth House, and not just on aesthetic grounds.

They considered it and all of modern architecture and design subversive. In short, communist. They believed the design dictum "less is more" was a communist plot to condition people to accept the lowest common denominator leveling that was inevitable in a forced egalitarian society.

One of the harshest critics was Elizabeth Gordon, the editor of House Beautiful. In 1953, she edited a forward-looking issue of the magazine that included an essay, "The Threat to the Next America," in which she explained her theories about the subversive agenda of modernism advocates.

Some quotes:

"They are trying to convince you that you can appreciate beauty only if you suffer – because they say beauty and comfort are incompatible."

"They are a self-chosen elite who are trying to tell us what we should like and how we should live."

"For if we can be sold on accepting dictators in matters of taste and how our homes are to be ordered, our minds are certainly well prepared to accept dictators in other departments of life."

"Break people’s confidence in reason and their own common sense and they are on the way to attaching themselves to a leader, a mass movement, or any sort of authority beyond themselves."

This is why Sarah Palin resonates so powerfully with many, because she is talking about an American way of life she feels is being undermined by domestic elitists (Hollywood, the media) and non-American 'others' (mostly the French). To Elizabeth Gordon, it was closet space. To Sarah Palin, it's shooting your own food.

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