In many issues of communication, color does matter. Some colors evoke strength, some safety, some progress, and some security. Some project cowardice, and others royalty.
The mistake is in assuming too much – that a spectrum of colors will cover every flavor of difference and distinction.
American politics has divided down Red and Blue lines, so chosen because the media of the time needed simple charts with easily-distinguishable colors to project the presidential races. Red equals Republican, Blue equals Democrat, and that’s probably the way it is going to be for the parties moving forward. It wasn’t really standardized in any way until 2000, and it just fell that way. If you tried to change it now, you’d likely get a lot of resistance from people who have freely chosen to identify as a Red-State voter, or that Proud Blue Dot in a Very Red State. The colors have come to represent more than just the parties, and cut to the very core of a conservative/liberal division.
While we’re on politics, it’s fairly-well understood that a Green is one who pushes an agenda with a strong environmental focus. In fact, the environment and sustainability drive just about every policy issue for one who is Green.
Beneath, Behind, Between
So where does that leave the rest of us?
I am a lowercase-L libertarian. I have at times been accused of being a brainless lefty, and at others of being a heartless conservative. You might paint me as a little bit red and a little bit blue. Which adds up to purple?
My problem is that my views don’t wash out that way. I have a strong axis toward fiscal conservatism, anchored by a belief that people in the aggregate spend their money more wisely and efficiently than when their money is pooled together and spent by someone who didn’t earn it. I also don’t trust “government” as an institution to stay out of the individual’s way, and leave people alone to their peculiarities.
There is nothing muddled about my thinking. Just ask me my position on just about anything, and I’m certain you won’t get a wishy-washy magenta out of it. Yet the current framework of color doesn’t have a place for people like me.
It’s entrenched in the notion that our two-party system is the best way to proceed – and both of our predominant American political parties have a vested interest in seeing that continue. (Don’t pretend the Democrats were happy with Ralph Nader’s Green Party siphoning off enough votes to turn the 2000 election on its ear.)
Essentially, this is rah-rah bumper-sticker boosterism. I steal from Rush’s “Territories”
They shoot without shame in the name of a piece of dirt
or a change of accent, or the color of your shirt
Better the pride that resides in a citizen of the world
than the pride that divides when a colorful rag is unfurled.
Reject the Premise
The Red Blue divide does more than polarize, it freezes the thinking. What color would you use to describe someone like me? Orange? Yellow? (Because cowardice is so politically appealing.) Pink? Brown?
How about just taking me off the map. I reject the notion there is a single prism through which to view issues, and I reject the premise that such a continuum can even exist. The Great Divide has become so much about different core values to the extent that “common ground” is difficult to navigate in the increasingly rare instances where the overlap remains.
We need a multi-dimensional approach to dissecting the issues that divide us. Viewed through one lens, the course of action is clear. Viewed through another, a diametrically-opposed strategy is apparent. But the language for seeing the differences from an angle that makes sense becomes impossible when the sides are conducting purity tests for their Red or Blue.
Color me invisible, color me blind.Â Better yet, challenge yourself to remove the goggles others are using to obscure your vision, so you only see the world in a way where the colors matter.