Smile Politely

Beyond Black and White

When I was a young boy in grade school, I wanted a big box of sixty-four crayons. But every August when my mom took me to buy my school supplies, I always ended up with the measly box of twenty-four. “The supply list says twenty-four,” my mother would explain. That damn supply list. It squelched my creativity and most likely prevented me from becoming a great artist.

It is a simple fact of grade-school life that the more colors you have in your box, the more stuff you can draw.

Yet, for some, having sixty-four choices is just too confusing. Thus, there is an unfortunate propensity among many of us humans to try to reduce everything in the world to only two choices, for example: Pepsi or Coke, Mac or PC, David Letterman or Jay Leno.

As a nation, we just experienced several months of this with our paltry two-party political system that forces us to choose either Democrat or Republican.

There’s never an in-between. There’s never enough choices.

This either–or mentality is especially prevalent in the theology of conservative Christians who like to call it “Absolute Truth” — a transparent and shabby disguise for narrow mindedness and bigotry — where you’re either “with us or against us.” You’re either straight and “normal” or gay and a sinner. You either believe and go to heaven, or you don’t and go to hell.

To hell with that theology. God is much bigger than that.

And we, the people of the United States of America, are much bigger than that.

We are bigger than the stereotypical white, middle-class family of mom, dad and 2.5 kids. We are African-American families, Asian families, Hispanic families, single-parent families and, yes, families with gay and lesbian parents. Get over it and love them — they’re your neighbors.

We are bigger than Christians. We are Muslims, Jews, Wiccans and Atheists.

We are bigger than middle-class suburbia.

It’s time, as a nation, to open up our big box of sixty-four Crayolas and see what we can create. Some of us have been using all the colors for a long time. Others need to begin simply by acknowledging that there are more colors than they imagined.

The day after the election, I overheard an African-American woman say to her friend, “It’s about time we got some color in the White House.”

I concur.

However, Barack Obama will bring not only his color but his thoughtfulness, deliberateness, intelligence and eloquence, to the White House. In the opening remarks of his victory speech Tuesday night, Obama said:

If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer…. It’s the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled – Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been a collection of Red States and Blue States: we are, and always will be, the United States of America.

The black-and-white rhetoric of the past eight years is finally at an end. No more “you’re either with us or against us.”

I suppose there will be many who will stubbornly cling to their black and white Crayolas even as the rest of us are coloring away with goldenrod, cornflower, raw sienna, and periwinkle — and that’s OK. They can use their limited crayons until nothing is left but waxy nubs.

Just don’t try to force your monochromatic ways on those of us who prefer color.

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