Nothing compares with this dye’s ability to capture the blues of nature—a midnight sky, early dawn, or an impression of the sea. It can also define a mood—of melancholy, of mystery in the dark hues, or joy and vitality in lighter variations. Indigo is a dye that demands discipline to use.From “What Is Indigo”, the Seattle Asian Art Museum
Four years ago my husband Kurt and I were waiting for a movie to start at our local theatre, when a promo for “Indignation”, a 2016 film based on a novel by Philip Roth. The movie’s trailer was intriguing, but it was the word indignation that struck me. I decided the word captured the mood of a great number of people in the United States at that time which was five months before the 2016 presidential election. Here we are four years later, and only four days before our 2020 presidential election, and our pot of indignation has only grown–and overflows.
If our country has become an IndigNation, what does the word indignation mean? I researched the definition in both the American Merriam-Webster dictionary and the British Oxford English Dictionary. Merriam-Webster defines the word as follows:
Indignation: anger aroused by something unjust, unworthy, or mean.Merriam-Webster Dictionary
Breaking down the root words in this definition, mean in this sense is defined as “lacking distinction, of inferior quality, lacking dignity or honor, characterized by petty selfishness or malice, causing trouble or bother”. Yes, that sums up the zeitgeist for those of us who yearn for change in our nation’s leadership.
Interestingly the Oxford English Dictionary describes indignation slightly differently as:
Anger or annoyance provoked by what is perceived as unfair treatment.Oxford English Dictionary
The OED’s definition as the perception of unfair treatment sounds as if it captures the mood of the portion of the country who prefers to see our current president re-elected. During his campaign rallies, our current president’s supporters appear incensed with the unfairness of having to share their country with anyone who does not fit their idea of what an American should be. And our current president is oh, so adept at stoking fear, hatred, and division. It is indeed his nom d’être, his reason for being.
At this unsettling and chaotic time in our nation’s history, when we have a viral pandemic and no federal strategy on how to deal with it. With winter coming on (in more ways than one), polls tell us a majority of Americans are indignant, angry, frustrated, and afraid of what all this means for their future and the future of the ones they love.
As I sat in my theatre seat in 2016, I toyed with the notion of changing the public conversation, changing the tenor of the whole cacophonous mess by adding a strategic “o” to indignation and turned it into IndigoNation. If only our nation’s healing could come about so easily.
What would an indigoNation look like? Where for starters it would have a rich history originating from the natural world because the word indigo refers both to the plant (originally grown in India) and the rare dye used to make fabric the rich, deep color of blue found on Isaac Newton’s color wheel between blue and violet. Only royalty or the very rich could afford this rare and sumptuous dye for their clothing and textiles, until the 16th century when large amounts of indigo were imported to Europe.
An IndigoNation would be beautiful to behold as blue is the color of the sky and sea. Indigo blue signifies depth and stability, and also trust, loyalty, wisdom, intuition, inspiration, confidence, intelligence, faith, sensitivity, sincerity, and truth.
Color is the keyboard, the eyes are the harmonies, the soul is the piano with many strings. The artist is the hand that plays, touching one key or another, to cause vibrations in the soul.Wassily Kandinsky, “Concerning the Spiritual in Art”, 1912
The color blue is considered beneficial to the mind and spirit and is known to slow human metabolism, producing a calming effect. And in ancient times many believers looked to the blue sky above us symbolizing the ideal destination of everlasting life: heaven.
And then there is the Duke–Duke Ellington and the Jazz classic “Mood Indigo”–originally titled “Dreamy Blues”.
You ain’t never been blue; no, no, no,
You ain’t never been blue,
Till you’ve had that mood indigo.
That feelin’ goes stealin’ down to my shoes
While I just sit here and sigh, ‘Go ‘long blues’.“Mood Indigo”, Marshall Parish (lyrics), Duke Ellington, Barney Bigard, & Lorenzo Tio (composers), 1930
We think of the blues as sadness, loneliness, and absence, but with blue there is a depth of feeling that shimmers beneath the surface as waves in the ocean–waves of change: receding, ebbing, flowing, always moving. Blue is ultimately inspiring and passionate, substantive–not simmering on the surface, but churning onward.
An IndigoNation would be vibrant with life: Art, music, laughter, dance, color, sensuality. A nation with open arms instead of closed minds would be more willing to embrace change than to fear it, and consider the possibility that the differences between tribal groups is typically only skin deep. We are the same underneath: we want life, liberty, and a decent chance to pursue happiness.
An IndigoNation would not be controlled by its basest elements of fear and hatred.
A healthy country is not based only on the rights of its citizens, but also on the responsibilities of its people. A citizen may have “free speech”, but not be free to–as the proverbial example goes–yell “fire” in a crowded theater. Citizens may have the right to exercise their right to practice their religion, but not to decide that everyone else in the country must follow that religion. Citizens may arguably have the right to bear arms, but they do not have the right to kill people they disagree with.
And a healthy nation would understand that taking common-sense measures, such as wearing a mask and social distancing, to safeguard the lives of the people around them is not a loss of freedom but a responsibility to protect each others’ ability to live and not die alone in an ICU hooked to a ventilator.
What sort of country do we want to live in? A nation dominated primarily by love or one primarily consumed with hate?
As the singer, award-winning actress, survivor, and icon of the possible, Cher said yesterday in a Zoom meeting:
Stand and be counted, or sit and be nothing.Cher, 2020
Let us decide to be a nation defined by our connections to each other, not our disagreements. As young people in the 1960s declared: Let’s make love, not war. Or in the words of Cher’s hit song, with her then-husband Sonny Bono, from 1965:
I got you to hold my hand“I Got You Babe”, Sonny Bono
I got you to understand
I got you to walk with me
I got you to talk with me
I got you to kiss goodnight
I got you to hold me tight
I got you, I won’t let go
I got you to love me so.
I got you babe
I got you babe
I got you babe
I got you babe
I got you babe
We’ve got us, babe. It is time to live like it.
~ Anna – 10/30/2020