I did not know that Michael Novak had an Official Portrait, but apparently he does. It hangs on a wall of the library of Ave Maria University in Florida.
The image is a remarkable thing. There, in the background, are the steel mills of Johnstown Pennsylvania, where Mr Novak’s father worked. To Novak, the fact that Slovak immigrants could work hard and send him on his way to college and fame and fortune is proof positive the America is great. Never mind that those mills are long silent and young Johnstownians today do not have the option of a high paying low skill job.
They’re flipping burgers with the rest of America.
Rising from the steel mills instead of smoke is a wraithlike John Paul, balanced, visually, by the phallic Washington Monument. Mr Novak wears a flag pin, proving that he loves America. In his hands he holds a white book with a gold ribbon in his hands. What is this book? I believe it must a copy of Centesimus Annus, the papal encyclical that Novak believes he inspired, which has been distorted by neoconservatives since the moment it saw the light of day.
I don’t know how much input Michael Novak put into the iconography of his portrait, but the thing cries out for revision. Instead of the mills there should be an image of an Iraqi city, burning. Replace the ghost of the pope with Dick Cheney. Maybe there should be images of Johnstown’s homeless and unemployed.
The Washington Monument can remain.
I only became aware of this remarkable portrait because Artur Rosman used it in an article for his blog, Cosmos the in Lost, which asks the timely question “To What Degree is First Things Responsible for Iraq?”
The question is long overdue; to my knowledge none of the neocons has taken any responsibility for that debacle and its aftermath, clearly foreseen by Novak’s beloved John Paul.
For some reason my laptop will not let me cut and paste, but Cosmos is in my blogroll; give it a look.>