Co-Authored by Ellen Offner, Principal, Offner Consulting, LLC, health care strategy and program development.
America's polyglot society continues to be enriched by many people including citizens of other countries, sometimes even countries with whom we have profound differences or are at war. Like many new immigrants they, too, have magnificent talent and drive. The Greenway Boston trompe l'oeil mural by Iranian artist Mehdi Ghadayanloo, a spectacular "pop-up," can be seen closeup in Dewey Square as well as from many other parts of downtown Boston; it perfectly captures the election of 2016. It is a trompe l'oeil picture of folks climbing a spiral staircase to the light with a balloon about to burst forth. "Ghadyanloo grew up on a farm in Iran during that country's devastating, drawn-out conflict with Iraq. His mother was a carpet weaver, his father a farmer. The war, which left profound scars on his entire country, imprinted itself on his psyche," according to The Boston Globe. "His murals have wound their way into the imaginations of millions." He is apolitical and arguably an artistic genius, demonstrating the richness artists and immigrants have always brought to America.
By definition trompe l'oeil is the art of illusion, a fantasy that makes you think a flat painting or design is a three-dimensional object. One of the the big post-election questions is whether or not Trump voters will get what they believe they saw: a strong, successful business man or an impulsive, egomaniac who will do anything and everything to win. Politics is theater, and theater is reality heightened or an illusion. Theater,politics, and tromp l'oeil all surprise us and fool our senses. In all three illusion and reality merge. Which leaves us all focusing on the hope that the surprises that lie ahead will be positive, that the Trump balloon, like the balloon in the mural, will not explode.
Much as this mural is realism on steroids, or in art lingo, heightened realism, that is, a painting which shows more than we see with normal vision so too, implications of this election come out from the shadows of glitz and campaign hyperbole.
Hillary lost and those who had hopes for a very different future must deal with the fact that we live in a country ruled by laws that provide order for many of us. If we trash those laws we lose perhaps more than we gain. Will illusion turn to disillusionment, anger, and violence? We are challenged to figure out how and when to be constructive so that the triple crown of President, Congress, and the Supreme Court (and lower federal courts) lasts only two years. This is our hope. We must also be open to the possibility that Donald Trump will govern more wisely than suggested by his campaign. Politics is also reality. It exposes the complexity of every decision. It is indeed fascinating that the artist, is from a demonized country and a Muslim who calls into question by this painting the illusion that all Muslims are against us and willing to commit terrorist acts, a reality stick in the eye of a truth corrupted.
For now, many of us need to use whatever methods we can to heal from the incredible disappointment of the election. This art might help along with breathing, exercising, taking with friends, ranting and then acting to assure that indeed "Love Trumps hate." We have seen the hate, we have seen the Trump, now let's make the love happen. It will involve social change on our part. We too will need to stop demonizing those who think differently from ourselves. After all, we are they. We, too, worry whether or not our pensions will cover our expenses in old age. We, too, are having trouble figuring out the health care system. It will involve political change: we need to assure that in 2018 the Congress is populated with enlightened, progressive people with new energy and ideas. It will involve recognizing that there are indeed two Americas. Many of us embrace immigrants because we know them, we walk down the street with them, we work with them and, again, we know they are us. People who work hard, love their families and obey the law. We need to share these positive experiences in every corner of our lives.
Artists emerge all over the world; they are not limited to people residing in countries governed by our Allies or sharing our major religions. And of course our alliances shift over time. Iran, formerly Persia and once an American ally, is known for its deep artistic heritage and cultural traditions. Despite U.S. tension with Iran, there are living artists in that country whose work we want to display prominently here. On the musical front, Yo-Yo Ma's Silk Road Project is an outstanding example of a melting pot of talented musicians from amongst other countries Syria, Iran, Spain, China, and the U.S. The richness of this international ensemble and the music it plays enhance the human experience, as shown in this marvelous film. In the world of dance, the Mark Morris Dance Group has premiered its beautiful new work, Layla and Majnun, with the Silk Road and two Azerbaijani singers, father and daughter, to rave reviews. The highly respected New York Times dance critic Alastair McIntyre called Morris "and his dancers citizens of not just India but also the world." Culture can be powerful in bridging gaps between disparate countries, despite political and religious disagreements and acrimony.
Will President Trump ultimately come to embrace the contributions of the diverse group of immigrants who want to become Americans to secure freedom from oppression in their native lands just like our founding fathers? Will he and other elected officials in the U.S. aspire to become valued "citizens of the world" as well of America?