Newmann: True colors |

Newmann: True colors

Tom Newmann
Valley Voices

The other day, on Halloween to be exact, the neighborhood kids came to our door in trick-or-treat mode.

We were expecting them and got as much of a kick out of giving the treats as they got in receiving them. Great to know that, even in weird and often isolated times, tradition lives on. And, even better, with good kids.

A few minutes later, the gang was back. They said, “There’s one more.” And the one more was a little girl who had not been with them on the initial go-around. They were looking after her. They wanted to make sure that she didn’t miss out.

Wow, talk about a spirit of unity.

Unity … it’s an interesting concept, especially now. With all the shouting, the rancor, the divisiveness during the past few years it’s sometimes hard to get one’s head around the concept of actual unity within the United States. Instead, the states appear to be divided on the basis of color coding: red or blue. Politically, a candidate’s messaging generally strives to appeal to one of those two color codes.

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In some instances, the message is geared toward nationalism. But calls for nationalism, however well-meant, can also go dark — and can lead to factionalism. And, potentially, to further schisms. The “isms,” which on their own sound like they’re straight out of Dr. Seuss, are far more sinister. The end result of many of these “isms” can be, and often is, an unravelling of unity.

In other instances, the message is collective, a sense that we’re actually all in this together. This concept has historically helped to guide us though some tough and disturbing times.

But it’s difficult, especially now, to make the collective appeal palatable to those who feel marginalized or disconnected or in any other way disenfranchised. Many of these folks are already a significant non-voice in our population — except during election cycles, when their voices are zealously courted (be it genuinely or disingenuously) for a brief time. The responses to that courting can be, and often are, surprising — and sometimes daunting — when the final tallies come in.

The final tallies are presented as … red and blue. Red and blue. A couple of random colors that seem to be held up as a representation of who and what we are. Do red or blue really have any demonstrable value in our lives —other than just being colors? Do either of them have the ability to protect us from a virus that is color blind? Do these colors really define us as a nation?

I prefer to think of the neighborhood kids, as witnessed on trick-or-treat night, as being a more realistic definition of who and what we are. Looking out for each other. Being the voice for one another. United. Happy.

And, in many ways, the real adults in the room.

Tom Newmann splits his time between Beaver Creek and Queenstown, New Zealand. He has been going winter-to-winter since 1986. He was also a journalist in Missoula, Montana, at the Missoulian for quite a few years. Email him at

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