Saturday, June 16, 2012

A Call to the Colors

Not long ago, Americans started being told to call conservative/Republican states “red” and liberal/Democratic states “blue.” This reversal of time-honored political colors, according to several sources, was casually introduced by journalist Tim Russert during the 2000 presidential election, and by 2004 had gone viral and become hegemonic.

Although Russert is no longer with us, his color blindness appears to have gotten dyed in the wool.

For perspective, try to picture the Reds of Manchester United or the Cincinnati Reds or the Boston Redsox suddenly switching their team colors to blue and forcing it down fans’ throats. Or Italy’s Azzurri football club going red.

Never happen. Color is not a neutral attribute. It is radical, it goes to the root.

The identification of Red with socialist revolution has very deep historical and emotional roots: the mythic “blood-brotherhood” of the downtrodden People, the blood of martyred working-class heroes, the willingness to fight to the death for the proletariat. It represents the heart and its sorrows and rages.

Similarly, the identification of Blue with tradition, moderation, conservatism, Reason, religion, transcendence, asceticism, aristocracy (“bluebloods”), idealism, spirituality, purity and the cerebral is deep-rooted and near universal. Wikipedia notes, "The Thin Blue Line is a colloquial term for police forces. The blue refers to the typical blue of the police uniform, and refers to the police forces in general [emphasis added]." Related terms are “blue laws,” which forbid certain behaviors on the Sabbath; “bluenose,” the advocate of a rigid moral code; and “blue stocking,” an overly intellectual female. Blue is the Virgin Mary’s color. Mess with that.

Among colors, blue and red are polar opposites. Seeing red is the opposite of feeling blue. Redlining, raising red flags – blue is simply not alarming; blue is soothing. Red = danger because it means something is bleeding or on fire; and Nature uses red coloration to warn of toxins in many species (caterpillars, snakes, frogs, efts, insects, etc.).

Blood and fire are red. The heavens and the oceans are blue. Q.E.D.

It’s shocking that leftists are not more bothered by the loss of their scarlet badge of honor, as they more than anyone are left bereft by this whole blunder. Leftwing demonstrations and marches are seas of heart-throbbing, histrionic red. As early as the 1790s red was the color of the Jacobins in the French Revolution. Ditto for the revolutions of 1848. The Paris Commune hoisted red banners until it was drowned in blood.

Rebellion red is richer and far more ancient than the 18th or 19th centuries, however. As D.H. Lawrence wrote in Apocalypse (1931), his ecstatic but politically garbled damnation of the Book of Revelation:

The human heart needs, needs, needs splendour, gorgeousness, pride, assumption, glory, and lordship. …

The red dragon [of the Book of Revelation] is the kakodaimon, the dragon in his evil or inimical aspect. In the old lore, red is the colour of man’s splendour, but the color of evil in the cosmic creatures or the gods. … The red dragon is the great “potency” of the cosmos. …

… The oldest of old dragons was a marvellous red, glowing golden and blood-red. He was bright, bright, bright red, like the most dazzling vermilion. This, this vivid gold-red was the first colour of the first dragon, far, far back under the very dawn of history. … Ah then the heroes and the hero-kings glowed in the face red as poppies that the sun shines through. It was the colour of glory: it was the colour of the wild bright blood, which was life itself. …

And today, in the day of the dirty-white dragon of the Logos and the Steel Age, the socialists have taken up the oldest of life-colours, and the whole world trembles at a suggestion of vermilion. “Red for danger,” the children say. … But every heroic epoch turns instinctively to the red dragon.

The sacred mysteries of the Rosicrucians record the following with regard to the extreme antiquity of red symbolism:
The Phrygian Cap is a most recondite antiquarian form; the symbol comes from the highest antiquity. It is displayed on the head of the figure sacrificing in the celebrated sculpture, called the 'Mithraic Sacrifice' (or the Mythical Sacrifice), in the British Museum. This loose cap, with the point protruded, gives the original form from which all helmets or defensive headpieces, whether Greek or Barbarian, deduce. As a Phrygian Cap, or Symbolizing Cap, it is always sanguine in its colour. It then stands as the 'Cap of Liberty', a revolutionary form; also, in another way, it is even a civic or incorporated badge. It is always masculine in its meaning. It marks the 'needle' of the obelisk, the crown or tip of the phallus, whether 'human' or representative. It has its origin in the rite of circumcision--unaccountable as are both the symbol and the rite.

The real meaning of the bonnet rouge, or 'cap of liberty', has been involved from time immemorial in deep obscurity, notwithstanding that it has always been regarded as a most important hieroglyph or figure. It signifies the supernatural simultaneous 'sacrifice' and 'triumph'.

Thus Russert’s discoloration is no mere whim, but actually distorts, rewrites and annihilates history and myth from any and every dialectical standpoint. At the very least it abruptly severs American political history from that of the rest of the world. To comprehend what this switch logically compels, consider the following:

The Red Scare and the Red Menace must become the Blue Scare and the Blue Menace. Every mention of “reds” in American politics of both right and left must be scrubbed and replaced by “blues.” You can’t even call fellow-travelers “pinkos” any more. “Red-baiting” turns to “blue-baiting.”

 “Red diaper babies” must be thrown out with the bathwater.

Innumerable works of history like David J. Mitchell’s 1919: Red Mirage and Eugene Lyons’ The Red Decade must be retitled.

In Russia, the Red Guards and the Red Terror and the Red Army and the Bolshevik slogan “Klinom krasnim bey byelikh!” (Beat the Whites with the Red Wedge!) all go down the Memory Hole. The Rote Armee Fraktion (Red Army Faction) and Brigate Rosse (Red Brigades) of the European New Left must join them there. Multitudes of references to Red Oktober must be purged, and Red Square may no longer bleed in the heart of Moscow.

The symbol of every communist party in the world from China to Catalunya, the red star, must revert to moody blue. Can you even imagine the hammer and sickle “rampant on a field azure”? The very notion is D.O.A.

Mao’s Little Red Book becomes the Little Blue Book of transvalued values.

The anthem and the historic newspaper each known as Die Rote Fahne (The Red Flag) must become Die Blaue Fahne, to the dismay of the ghosts of Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg.

Irishman Jim Connell’s anthem “The Red Flag,” written in 1889, has been sung for a century by British leftists of all tints (to the tune of “O Tannenbaum”):

The people's flag is deepest red,
It shrouded oft our martyred dead,
And ere their limbs grew stiff and cold,
Their heartsblood dyed its every fold.

Then raise the scarlet standard high.
Within its shade we'll live and die.
Though cowards flinch and traitors sneer,
We'll keep the red flag flying here.

Look round, the Frenchman loves its blaze,
The sturdy German chants its praise,
In Moscow's vaults its hymns are sung,
Chicago swells the surging throng. …

But now it must be rewritten: “The people’s flag is deepest blue,/It shrouded oft our martyred few”...

(The Chicago reference above is to the notorious Haymarket Riot of 1886, where a red flag waved over the assembled strikers demanding an 8-hour day.)

The bandiera rossa of Italian Communism –
Avanti o popolo! Alla riscossa!
Bandiera rossa! Bandiera rossa!
... Bandiera rossa la trionferà,
Evviva il comunismo e la libertà!

must become bandiera azzurra, which does not rhyme with riscossa (revolt).

The pain of losing their redness in song is indeed greater for the left: for instance, the Spanish Civil War’s ballad of the Thaelmann Brigade – or “Paris ma rose” with lyrics by Boris Vian –

Où est passée Paris la rouge?
La Commune des sans-souliers?

Est-elle fermée, la longue douleur
Du temps où les gars avaient si grand cœur
Qu'on n'voyait que lui aux trous des chemises?

Where has Red Paris gone?
The Commune of the Sans-souliers [barefoot]?
... Is it over, then, the long grief
Of that time when the youths had such great heart
That you saw only that through the holes in their shirts?

Socorro Rojo Internacional (International Red Aid) saved many a revolutionary's life in 1930s Spain, and would not wish to be forgotten for it.

The French tricolor – bleu, blanc et rouge standing for Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité – will have to be redone as bleu, blanc et bleu. Indeed, all political flags must be thrown out and redesigned, as in most of them the red is intended to symbolize “the People.”

Danny the Red of Paris 1968 fame – and all those others called “the Red” for their unswerving allegiance to socialism – must now be called “the Blue.” Only the Blue Meanies of the Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine” need not change color.

Last and least, that awful movie “Reds” must be retitled “Blues.”

Of course we won’t make these changes. We’ll just let America be cut loose from history, adrift in petty exceptionalism and lazy amnesia. It sure makes you wonder if the red/blue inversion is a cynical and conscious ploy to weaken our historical sense of ourselves as a people. Texas is a “red” state? … Please.

Popolo americano, we need to show our true colors. The situation is ludicrous. One ignoramus cannot be allowed to up-end centuries of symbolic thought. If this dumb switch is allowed to stand, what’s next - changing the colors of Christmas (red and green, the colors of life) to blue and silver? Oh wait, that’s already being tried.

It’s time both sides took their true colors back. It needs to begin with websites (including and blogs and commentators and organizations just announcing they are going back to the rational color key, and then consistently doing so. Others can either follow suit or continue along the path to irrelevance.

If we can’t even call something by its rightful color, how on earth are we going to withstand any of the other wondrous transformations the elites have in store for us?