On Losing Our Color


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A few days ago I was traveling with my lovely wife along Interstate 40 as it crossed Oklahoma and the Texas panhandle. Back in the age of America’s greatness we would have taken a commercial flight across the vast and barren expanse, but like many travelers, we have chosen to avoid the abusive sexual molestation and exploitation by the TSA predators, and now plan a little more time to drive the distance in relative freedom from government sanctioned assault.

But I digress.
Those of you who have never made the long drive I described need to understand that for the entire length of the trip, the highway is flanked by grassy plains…that is, a brown, flat or very gently rolling, virtually featureless expanse of land that is starkly beautiful for the first few miles before blurring into an agonizing monochromatic monotony for the rest of the long trip. I do not remember so much as a curve in the highway from Van Buren, Arkansas to the New Mexico state line. It was, to coin a phrase that I am certain was often used by early travelers in covered wagons, as straight as an arrow.
At one point during the trip, my lovely wife was dozing in the seat beside me while I was snoring softly in the driver’s seat with little to do on the laser-straight track. A bump in the road, which could have been a large rock or a compact car, jolted me awake enough to realize I should pay closer attention and make an effort to keep my eyes open.  I decided to entertain myself by evaluating the automobiles I was meeting on the highway for color, manufacturer, and any other category that might distract me from the geographic boredom.
Only a few moments of assessing the approaching traffic were required to bring me to a startling realization…one of those “Ah Ha!” moments of epiphanic  awareness that brings flawless clarity to one of life’s troublesome conundrums. The revelation?
We are losing our color!
Twenty cars into my traffic count revealed black cars, white cars, and a smattering of grey or silver cars. It was a veritable gray-scale parade, with little evidence of once-familiar hues from the color wheel. After a long while, an old maroon Ford pickup truck appeared on the horizon, finally bringing a little color to the highway and assuaging my fears that the rods and cones of my eyes had malfunctioned. The truck soon passed, and I was once more submerged into a sea of gray-scale images.
“Why,” I wondered, “has the American driver forsaken the once cherished delight of driving the bright, colorful, sometimes two- and three-tone automobiles that brought a gaudy vibrancy to travel across the continent? Why have they limited their choices to a bland black, white, and gray that add nothing to the journey?
Epiphany struck in answer to my question.
We are losing our color as a society. I don’t know if it is in response to alterations in lifestyle, or to government mandate, or to changes in our education system, but Americans are melding (possibly even melting) into a featureless, monochromatic society that is devoid in practically all categories of the colorful characters, original ‘outside the box’ inventiveness, encouragement to achieve greatness, and even preference for automobile color, that once set us apart from all other peoples in the world.

Mulberry Street NYC ca.1900. edit of Image:Mul...

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Consider this: In the eighties and nineties, multiculturalism was all the rage. We should all live peacefully together, we were told. We should celebrate and lift up our differences as each learns from the other. That sounded great back then, but the philosophy has devolved into a society that is not multicultural, but rather, acultural…we have become afraid to point out our differences, to disagree in any public manner with one of a different culture or ethnicity, to even argue a political, economic, or social point of view with one of a different color for fear of being called a racist. The result, more often than is healthy, is that we no longer express our opinions. We hold bland, meaningless conversations and debates in an effort to remain ‘politically correct,’ and we lose our spark, our creativity, our color, in the process.

Sputnik, which means

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In my youth, it was not at all uncommon to see celebrations of the Christmas and Hanukkah season spring up on the lawns of public schools, post offices, and other government buildings around the nation. No more. Might offend the sensibilities of Wiccans, atheists, or politicians who believe only in the god of government.
In the late 1950s, in the wake of Sputnik being fired into space by the Soviet Union, thus showing their superiority in the space race, American schools kicked into high gear to teach math and science to all students, particularly those who showed high potential, in an effort to graduate a generation of physicists, engineers, and mathematicians who would reclaim America’s superiority. It worked. A scant twelve years after the Russians fired their basketball-sized sphere into orbit, where it did nothing but emit a beeping signal as it circled the globe, American drive and ingenuity put a man on the moon. Now, the focus of public school education is, basically, “no child left behind.” I am certainly in favor of helping those children from disadvantaged backgrounds or with below average educational potential being helped and encouraged to become all they can be, but I hate that it currently seems to come at the expense of the kids at the other end of the spectrum. By their very lack of programs to challenge those with the highest potential to reach for greatness, schools lower their standards, and, by default, encourage all students to achieve mediocrity. They teach students to be average, to be bland, to be monochromatic.
They lose their individuality, their color.
Consider the recent political debate over our nation’s huge debt and budget deficit. Both sides of the issue rant and rail to the media to gain favor for their own position. Both sides assume that we, the American people, are far too stupid to see through their sham.
They are arguing over a few billions of dollars when the deficit is measured in trillions!
Both sides offer a pitifully ineffective token gesture to a problem that is killing our economy. Neither side will step up to the plate and offer up a brilliant, politically risky, financially sound, and rapid acting solution that will begin the process of restoring the United States to its rightful place of world economic leadership. Maybe neither side is capable. Perhaps they are just bland, jaded politicians who desire only the status quo. Perhaps they have lost their color.
I could rave on with a hundred more examples of how we are losing our national character as we seem to strive daily to become average, bland, monochromatic. You have only to look to find many examples in your own town, perhaps in your own home, very likely in your own driveway. We are all being lulled to sleep by a society that encourages sameness, by a dull drive through life that offers little as we look out the window. It doesn’t have to be that way.
Every now and then during my long highway journey I would pass through a small town that had a large American flag proudly flying over a local business. The flags, I noticed, were still comprised of vibrant reds, whites, and blues. They stood out as something very special against the bleak background terrain, and seemed to scream out the fact that there is still hope for us all. We don’t have to fade away into grayscale…don’t have to accept a life without color.

Flag of USSR from 15 August 1980 - 25 December...

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In my novel, Nikita’s War, I posit the theory that the Soviet Union attacked our nation in the 1950s and 60s by placing their agents in our businesses, schools, and government in an effort to convert the baby boom generation to socialism. It has taken a generation, but, in view of the current political climate, the plot may have been more real than I envisioned, and may still be working. I suggest that we on the other end of the social and political spectrum now do the same. We need to make certain that our agents, that is, those who believe in conservatism, individual freedom and responsibility, and striving for greatness, are placed into national office. We need to teach our children that their opinions, even those with which we disagree, are important, and should not be sequestered under the guise of political correctness. We need to teach them to strive for greatness…to reach for the brass ring…to avoid the temptation to settle for mediocrity. We need to encourage our local businesses and media to encourage and reward excellence and to ignore the current government’s goal to demonize and penalize personal success.
We can do it. You can do it. I suggest you start small…drive your gray-scale car down to your local dealership and test drive something that is bright red or yellow. See how it feels. Put a little vibrant color back into your life. Pin a small color wheel button to your lapel and encourage others to do the same. It will be our clandestine signal to each other. It will say, “We are taking America back!”

2 Responses to On Losing Our Color

  1. Anonymous December 3, 2011 at 7:01 am

    I've noticed the same thing. Up here in Colorado, even the wealthy people in places like Aspen & Vail avoid individuality. Instead of candy apple red Ferraris,
    they drive bland beige SUVs. People are afraid to stand out in the crowd. If you do, you face ridicule for being unique. It was with just this in mind, that we designed our new website. Check it out and see if you think the colors are too loud. http://detdep.com.
    Your site is excellent – looks like you've been at this for some time…

  2. Blair April 17, 2012 at 1:56 am

    You ought to try driving across the Oklahoma panhandle on US 64. You'll soon come to realize why it was once called 'No Man's Land'.

    I noticed the same thing about the color of cars recently. Back when I was a kid they were every color of the rainbow. Some even two-tone. Lots of stripes and vinyl tops too.

    Guess newspeak can't be far around the corner…


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