Coloring Outside the Country

Translator, traveler, writer, fiber artist - creating keeps me alive. Maine and Galiza are my homes.

Image of Creative Nonfiction

America, I can’t color you in. You don’t exist. America is not a country. There are three Americas: North, Central, and South. You can't be drawn on any map. However, I will color you a name: America the Bland. Not Great. Not Beautiful. 

In recent years this country is concerned about colors and rainbows. You have no clue about color, history, or the world. You can barely find yourself on a map. Maps are unimportant to you, illegible. Fix that. Stop erasing the other colors. Stop denying that in your bliss of ignorance they do not love you. Wicked is as wicked does. 

I'll color you green, like dollar bills. Dusty green of blood and guts, greedy and gangrenous immigrants. (They include my family, don’t think otherwise.) Green peppermint fields and potato plants grown by newcomers on the western Atlantic when to the east a blight burned fields.You weren't superior, only luckier. 

You set yourself up as you wished to be seen. Your self-portrait, a myth. Starvation, slavery, emancipation? Virtues. America, green as far as the eyes could see and steal. America, silent about the wrenching of people from homes - even today, when a president of color ignored people of other colors who wanted water and no pipelines. Or other people of color who wanted water that wasn't orange or brownish-green. Green: you wear it as if you knew what it was like to be Irish.

People who protect the water or need water that doesn’t burn as it flows from the tap see green in the government. Green and greed. Not all people like manicured lawns and modern parks. Some see the movement of bland beings who have no sense of maps or battles or bombs. Bland in pink hats, resisting they know not what, only recognizing colors when there is a local event, the scene smeared with red. A tragedy. Tragedies don’t occur in an unmarked place nobody can find, where they don’t speak English. Transparent countries. Maybe they don’t exist. They should have greener pastures.

America the Bland, some walk on you and think they are walking on something strong and beautiful with fruited plains and all the grain it needs. They never ask what is beneath the surface, who might be there. Their green is made of paper, their history is the new store being built out by the old mall, the newest brand of craft beer this week, the NBA finals.Your people are oblivious to the huts, swamps, and cockroaches of the world on the map you cannot see. Those people have no color. They may not even exist. 

You are good, kind, hard-working, and generous? Stop lying about yourself, your past, your future. With slings and arrows you try to eliminate one problem, one leader, never looking in the mirror or picking up a book.One green does not make another.Your problem lies in your need to erase color, to convince people it is virtuous not to discriminate. Problem is, then you go right out and do it. Discriminate. 

I feel sorry for you, America, not just because you have no name. It’s because your newer arrivals, with hopes of better lives, never asked if they should be here. Once here, they all let green in the form of money do the talking. Forget German, French, Italian, all those Asian, African languages. You craved material comforts and thought you were deserving of them. Don't waste time figuring out what other countries had to say. Invisible countries.

The only way to achieve things and more things: erase your colors and focus on the goal of green (which was also gold until the Federal Reserve came along). You sold it, sold that faux gold goal, to the world. You put your publicity on a statue and let a person whose family was part of a diaspora speak for you: 

"Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me: I lift my lamp beside the golden door." You tried to let that voice, which belonged to Emma Lazarus, speak for you.

Things really went downhill then. You knew the important green didn’t grow in the pockets of every person, but you insisted on assigning a higher value to those who had more of it. The ones with trailers and cabins instead of ranch style houses and lots of acres, who rented and worked as hired hands instead of CEOs, those people never saw what you told everybody you were.

The ones without indoor plumbing, who worked and froze their fingers to the bone daily. Those people didn’t see the here that was for sale everywhere they turned. They saw hell.Those people were all sorts of colors, impoverished and dying young or decrepit. (We will avoid the term brain-washed - a colorless brain is sad.)

If you didn’t make the pay grade in America, you were nobody. You worked two or three jobs. You struggled to pay your bills. You came in all colors, but you were supposedly Americans. (Think how I know this.) They had to leave it all at the door, or on the dock or clandestine footpath across the border. When you leave everything behind, you have a good chance of becoming a big, fancy, puffed-up nothing. Hiding what is not there any more. Hiding the ignorance of everything beyond the home screen and the front porch. 

Through lack of information, people can tell themselves they have it all. Even the horrible class differences, they say, don’t exist. Today’s problems are only racial, don’t you know? (Ask the politicians, who wouldn’t recognize a poor person if they ran over him with their Mercedes.)

Today America, with spacious skies for flying through and dropping bombs, countless, expensive bombs, has no healthcare for all, no respect for elders, no idea of anything because the puppeteers have whitewashed everything. Remember, no red allowed. Only amber waves of grain. 

That’s my America. Color it in and green. It’s the only option, but be careful where you apply the color. None of the appropriate spots for it are appropriate nowadays. Example: You can’t keep the environment green because manufacturing - oh, be proud, this country is first in the world in that category too - is oblivious to trees, brooks, hills, and huge canyons.  

You won’t risk your life to combat climate change, pollution and death by plastic, or the extinction of species, but you care about the banks: all green inside, hopefully too big to fail. They hold your mortgage. You owe them a lot.

You build yourself up, America, create housing subdivisions straight out of a 3-D printer. (We all love our gadgets.) You make sure the lawns are properly seeded and store windows are squeejeed.  Your personal space is much bigger and greener than the one allotted to others around the world. 

This is a nice, bland package with a bow but nothing inside it. If you must revel in your ignorance, putting your hands over your ears, eyes, and mouth like the three famous monkeys. Admit you have nothing to offer. Everything you have was borrowed from other places, ones you do not know how to or want to identify. However, your weapons, drones, and other toys help you follow the path of mass destruction.

America the Bland, I am sorry for all of this. It hurts both of us, but you will hurt the world a whole lot more if you don’t stop forcing the color green on it.

The concept of live and let live, of community? That’s where the real rainbow resides, in the paintbox of equality, the canvas of coexistence. Maybe the painful chilblains on hands of every color but of only one tortured class, can then be soothed. Maybe you can escape from your monochromatic politics. 

My paintbrush is ready.