Today has been my first day to not be brave and reasoned since the election. I spent some time wallowing in videos of post-election sense-making and then decided to take in this glorious fall day in downtown New Haven.
Walking through the Yale campus, I paused at the chalk writings covering the plaza and sidewalk outside Sterling Library. Students declaring they’re still here. They’re not leaving. Everyone wants to be seen and heard. Everyone. This need is not limited to the victors.
Over on Church St, a march was noisily passing by.
I stepped into the Yale University Art Gallery for my now daily dose of art as medicine. I hadn’t yet seen the Yosemite exhibit and having taught the promise of the West with my students, I really needed to see what YUAG had uncovered from its own collection.
Since the plethora of eye surgeries have created some new abilities, I was happy to discover another one. For the first time in my life, I can actually see the 3-D image form using a stereoscope. And it is marvelous! I sat with this one for several long minutes studying every detail.
The flanks of the horses, the overlap to the lone shrub, the droplets of water seemingly visible from the falls, I marveled at every detail and “you are there quality.” I get it. I understand why these things were such a major form of entertainment in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
This image was one of 3 with stereoscopes in the exhibit. I was arrested by it in particular, I think, because of the journey it promises.
Standing in front of this large painting by Albert Beirstadt, I realized something. As one tear slid down my check, I understood why this moment is even worse for me than 9-11.
Then, I felt shocked and stunned because we were victimized into an awareness finally that Americans are not universally beloved. Art was my savior then, too. I stood many mindless moments absorbing an Impressionist painting of a winter scene, part of a special exhibit at the Phillips Collection at the time, before I realized beauty was what I needed an an antidote. I turned my life toward art.
No, this moment is different. Americans are not victims this time. We have stabbed ourselves in the heart. I feel broken in a new way that became evident when meditating on this glorious evocation of the belief in the American promise.
That saturated golden light represents the future infused with American values, rights, and systems. The journey toward the spiritually evanescent light calls to all of us in the foreground to journey toward it, to be clear-sighted, and stay the course to the future.
That light for me now has been snapped off.
It’s been a long run and a mostly good one since this promise was made after the Civil War. Perhaps, in the grander scheme of things, it’s time for another country’s light to shine bright.