When the deep purple falls
over sleepy garden walls
and the stars begin to twinkle in the sky
in the mist of a memory, you wander on back to me
breathing my name with a sigh.
I’ve been lost in reverie for the past week—thinking about the sacred, spiritual, healing color purple. As election returns were coming in last Tuesday night, commentators were talking about reds and blues combining into different shades of purple. Maps ranged from lavender—where 80% or more of the population is white—to deep purple where whites equal 50% or less. When all was said and done, the win resulted from the deep purple vote. The white male in America has clearly met his match.
I thought about purple when I began getting feedback on my website. My views are solidly blue and I was happy to get loving responses from the two of my dearest long-term friends who are Republican. I like to think that deep abiding friendships can be deep purple. Refusing to let go of what is valuable, despite seriously opposing viewpoints. Shared history, commonalities, and love being good enough reasons to work together to nurture the relationships. I refuse to think these friendships have remained only because we are all Southern grown—and rarely see each other.
Growing up Southern, I learned it was impolite to talk about money, religion and politics. It was okay to talk about sex, just not in mixed company. When I met the three friends I’ve had the longest, we never talked about religion or politics. Money was a big topic, but only because we didn’t have any.
And as a shrink, I’ve always had to walk a fine line around my political views. I’ve learned not to voice strong opinions on controversial topics, having early-on made mistaken assumptions that cost me—which sometimes means remaining outwardly Zen-like when I am shaking inside.
Over the last two weekends, the ones bookending the election, I found myself back in the South for two weddings. Being in the South for me is like taking an intoxicant or listening to old music. I am pulled by the flora and fauna, geography, weather and food. I am pulled by my roots.
The first wedding was in Virginia, between Richmond and Williamsburg. It was out in the country with directions including different Routes and “bear left at the old library,” and “bear right after crossing the railroad tracks.” There was a two-lane highway winding through pine trees past trailer homes with Romney signs.
I told my husband, “If anyone stops us let ME do the talking!”
“What do you mean, if anyone stops us?”
“Like a State Trooper—just don’t say a word.” I knew I could tap into my Southern self and get us off the hook if necessary.
The wedding was lovely and no one spoke of the upcoming election. For that I was grateful, being that it was mostly a Southern Republican crowd.
This past weekend I was in Austin, the single blue dot in the great state of (don’t mess with) Texas. And the rocking wedding was most definitely a jubilant crowd of Democrats. Both the bride and groom are human-rights activists employed in high-level government jobs in Washington, D.C. and most of the crowd was Jewish.
Immediately following the election, I was overwhelmed with relief and hope that the outcome signaled positive change in the racial attitudes in the States, especially in the South. I longed for the redemption I describe in my essay Am I Blue? I wanted to be able to go home again. But on the plane ride back from Texas, I read that last Tuesday night angry students at the University of Mississippi protested the election results by shouting racial slurs. And at Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia, just 90 miles west of where we’d attended the wedding, 40 students threw bottles, shouted racial slurs, and set off fireworks outside the Minority Student Union.
So—I went back to the South, for the briefest moment thought “what if?” then returned HOME with the blues. The words and melody of an old song keep looping through my mind, and I have finally figured out why. Deep Purple was the number one pop-hit in November 1963, the week before President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. It was the soundtrack to another time when hope and hatred were battling it out in our country. I’m still praying for Hope—and I’m still awaiting redemption.
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