Red and Blue Make Purple
“Everything is energy and that’s all there is to it. Match the frequency of the reality you want and you cannot help but get that reality. That is not philosophy… That is physics.”
– Albert Einstein
My first memory of a presidential election was in 1988. I was in the Third Grade. That particular November 2nd, while standing in the lunch line, my best friend Genevieve asked:
“Who ya votin’ for?”
“Michael Dukakis” my mini-self said proudly.
Teachers had been prepping us for weeks, and that afternoon would be a mock election. My parents shared over dinner a few months prior about different candidates. In eight years of wisdom, I assumed all parents told their children the same things.
I looked at my feet slightly confused.
“I’m voting for George Bush” she said briskly.
“My parents say he’s best for the job.”
“Why do they think he’s best for the job?” I wondered aloud. I briefly imagined her parents having secret access to special files like in the game of CLUE.
“Welp, one reason is for when we buy candy. George Bush will make sure it’s less expensive.”
“Oh, wow,” I replied. This was not something my parents had mentioned.
I’ll never know the context of what her parents told her. A candy metaphor was probably an effective way of explaining to an 8 year old the desirability of lower taxes.
“Why do your parents like Dukakis?” she asked.
I remember feeling something odd in that moment… something I had never sensed between us before. Even though there were no words to describe it at the time… on an intuitive level it was clear she wasn’t one bit curious about what I was going to say.
I shuffled nervously as I prepared to enter this lose-lose conversation. What I had gleaned from my own parents was no more sophisticated than she from hers:
“Dukakis really cares about poor people.” I said back to her. “If he wins, he will take care of them.”
I’ll never forget her response as she picked up a lunch tray…
“Haha! Yeah, well I’m a kid and I care about candy.”
As we entered the cafeteria with PB&J sandwiches I gazed up at the wall. There was a map students had been coloring based on electoral college votes.
Red and Blue.
For some reason I felt tired.
One day after a meeting, a co-worker named John pulled me aside:
“You know what would be cool?”
“Compose a list of false assumptions Republicans make about Democrats. I’ll do the same vice versa.”
Once I had taken an online political quiz for fun. The result had been:
“Any farther left and you’d be Stalin.”
John was a day-trader and server in his forties. He grew up in Louisiana. Sometimes I would ask him to just say New Orleans… “New Aww-hlins” was music to an Ohioan’s ears. If we’re going to make generalizations now, you can probably guess where an Ohio art teacher and Louisiana day trader fell in the political spectrum.
And still… I LOVED talking politics with John.
We would chat over napkin folding at work… education… foreign policy… healthcare… and through it all, I got a true sense he was interested in understanding. Rather than merely pick apart my views for weak spots, John had this flawless knack for connecting his ideas with mine to create common ground. I always left conversations feeling encouraged, hopeful, proud, and a bit smarter.
“I love that idea!” I tell him. Even the people I agree with are freaking me out. Everyone is getting seriously black and white about the issues.”
“Or too Red and Blue.”
We both laugh.
“We need Purple.” he says looking pensive.
For a moment I’m confused.
“Red and Blue make Purple,” he replies.
I clock out for break and take a trip down memory lane– back to an undergraduate Painting class.
According to Western versions of history, the color purple was first found on the coast of Lebanon. Extracted from mollusks– so expensive was the process, only the wealthy could afford it. Over time it was adopted as a color for Roman government, and later European monarchies. By the 21st century elementary school children could find it the Big Box of Crayola’s:
For some reason, I felt comforted.
“Can we PLEASE do that again” he asked.
I flipped on classroom lights.
Twenty, 7 year olds slowly packed up supplies– moving in what seemed like a slight daze. We had finished 45 minutes in silence making mandalas– circular artworks used in Eastern and Western traditions of meditation and self reflection.
“What did you think?” I smiled.
His eyes glowed. “I feel AWESOME.”
As the class lined up, one girl held back.
“Miss Borrelli?” She paused and waited until all of the students were on the other side of the room.
“What’s up?” I say while shuffling art.
Well… I just wanted to tell you… um… you said energy is something you can feel but not see… like when someone is trying to hide their sadness with a smile, but you can feel they are pretending.”
I look up and nod.
“Well… that’s not true…
I can see it.”
My nodding stops but my smile remains.
“I mean, I see energy. I think I get it from my mom, she can do it too. It’s called seeing auras.”
“I’ve heard of that” I tell her.
She locked eyes with me and gave me a huge grin.
Before I found any more words her teacher arrived and she skipped off.
BOOM! said a post on my newsfeed. Obama is kickin’ a** this round.
I had the fortune of accidentally logging on to Facebook during the last presidential debate.
Please God, get ‘Bama out of office, said another.
Transported back in time. Staring at Punky Brewster sneakers… shuffling nervously across the green tile of an school kitchen.
Maybe I couldn’t see energy… but I could sure feel it.
I thought of conversations with John.
I wished more people could debate like him.
“We need more purple.”
I traveled in time to the Second Grade mandala lesson.
That night in my classroom I had Google searched “auras.”
“I wish I had thought to ask her what color mine was.” I had chuckled to myself.
As I read, I thought of Genevieve. I thought of the red and blue map. I thought of purple.
In Eastern traditions, purple is the highest energy…
the color of enlightenment…
re-connecting to the source…
And to each other.
John was right, I thought as I logged off Facebook.
We need more purple.
It’s not philosophy.