Beauty and Democracy

It has been quite a week. I watched the American election results overnight in London, England and felt a deep sense of joy and hopefulness amidst all of the gloom. Then on Friday, Emily Carr University of Art and Design installed its first Chancellor. Some photographs from the event can be found on the main Emily Carr website.

The election of Barack Obama, his acceptance speech and the extraordinary sense of relief visible among all of the faces in Chicago and elsewhere in America and the world say as much about the strength and resiliency of democracy as they do about the event itself. The feeling that one's vote counts is not a cliche, rather and more importantly, it brings forth all of the sensations that come from empowerment. These are visceral feelings and they are almost impossible to reduce down to words. Everyday life is often overwhelmed by an endless procession of small events, some benign, others bewildering, and moments that are sometimes hurtful.

Obama's victory erased all of that in one intense jump from an age dominated by fear and the marketing of bankrupt ideas to an age where at a minimum the most powerful man in the world will speak with honesty about the challenges we all face. For better or worse, America remains the most powerful symbol of nationhood in the world. Its icons, its images, the inflection and content of its discourse affect everyone. The very manner in which the country has been constructed is replete with nearly every possible contradiction one could ever imagine, and this brings an intensity to its position and to its postures that few nations can match. Its idealism so often a cause for worry, now stands out as a foundation for one of those mythic stories our parents often told us. To imagine the future may well be to create it.