When the Green Meets the Red, White and Blue

by Monim Wains

I was born green, but thrown into red, white and blue. Two tsunami waves crashing into a grey ten-tonne wall. Tall and loud, rushing and gushing with full force right at me. Two oceans, continent-sized, pushing into each other. A ridge of mountains right between my lungs. 

You must stay home, says the green. Be good and obedient, dutiful and respectful. We stick together and help out, remember. We owe that to each other. The green really is a comforting blanket. A reliable system of structure and rules. Laws passed down in a tradition as communal as the family name. Tradition holds people together for support and warmth.

But the red, white and blue is more vibrant. Be you, be free, it beckons. Find yourself in this mess of a world and make it your own. You don’t owe your birth to anyone, it is your life to live. Live it to the full and take all the chances you can. Regret will become a laughing memory in time. The red, white and blue is inspiring. Lifting my spirit to the end of my potential. Tradition is made by those who defined success themselves.

Do not lose the green. It is there for you when no one else can be. With stability and community that you can always rely on. It is who we are. It is your identity.

Do not lose the red, white and blue. It will push you further than anyone else can. With chance and freedom for you to explore. It is who we are. It is your identity.

No, none of this is me. This is you, all of you. So green as to be stuck in the ground. So red, white and blue as to be angered, bored and depressed. One side so rooted it can’t see how stuck it is. The other so free it doesn’t know the meaning of lost. A tradition of paranoia and a tradition of regret.

In the valley of these two mountains I walk. Maybe you have the fortune of being born on one side, never seeing the peak on the other side of the clouds. But I’ve been thrown into the middle, with people looking down at me from both sides. Neither here nor there. Neither green, nor red, white and blue. 

It is funny how the people above me think that they are right. They think that their side is higher, closer to the way things should be. In reality, no one has seen above the clouds. I guess from one side you can’t tell how to walk over to the other. You can’t tell that the peaks aren’t separate. They are on the same land, just painted in colours by people long gone before. Colours that they thought looked best, in line with their tradition.

For some reason, the people on the peaks thinks that their tradition is their own. They don’t see the paths just hewn into the rock. I guess if you walk a particular way for long enough, it just becomes the way you walk. And talk. And live. But then they tell me to walk that line. They tell me that my identity is the path they’re on, and no path else.

But I refuse. It is a curse, no doubt, to have to carve out a line between two mountains. To walk a valley because you live on neither peak. But it is a blessing to be forced to see that the colours are all man-made. By people no higher than the other side. No better than me. I will not live on your lines. You are not my identity. My colours are my own, and they are the colours I will choose. From both of you, I will take what I think is good, and ignore, no matter how much you scoff, no matter how much you pressure me, no matter how right you think you are, every little bit that I don’t want. 

I will walk a path that I chart for myself along no lines that came before. I will get lost, and I will get stuck. But by the end of it, I will be me. And I hope I will look back on the mountains as they fade into sand. Tradition dead. As dead as the people who drew the lines you want me to walk. Then maybe you will want to walk with me too.

The Poor Print

Established in 2013, The Poor Print is the student-run newspaper of Oriel College, Oxford. Written by members of the JCR, MCR, SCR and staff, new issues are published fortnightly during term. Our current Executive Editors are Siddiq Islam and Jerric Chong.

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