THE COLOR OF MEMORY
RENATOR REDENTOR CONSTANTINO
March 23, 2005
Blue is the color of heaven. A long time ago, it was more expensive than gold and "used only for the holiest parts of paintings, usually the Madonna's robes." Legend has it that Marco Polo brought ultramarine, a luminous deep blue whose very name means "from beyond the sea," to Italy from Afghanistan, where the color was derived from powdered lapis lazuli.
The Afghan lapis mines have been all but exhausted, which is a shame. According to the writer Victoria Finlay, who visited the mines in 2001, the mineshafts were like "a whole art history in one little pathway."
But history has hardy hues, and blue memories are not easily depleted.
Perry O'Brien is from blue-eyed, Blue State Maine. In January 2003, he was deployed as a medic of the 82nd US Airborne Division to
One day Perry heard of reports that up to 3,000 Afghan civilians had been killed by American bombs. Perry found the figure striking: 3,000 was "about the number of people that were killed on 9/11." He asked himself - "Were we getting even?" Perry "started to feel like an Army mechanic, fixing things that my comrades in the Air Force and Infantry hd broken. But they weren't 'things' of course, they were people, and after they left our clinic they were going home to their families."
In June 2003, Perry filed a case with the US Army to become a conscientious objector. Months later, his case was approved. Perry recounted asking himself what they were doing in the foreign country: "I used to accept the idea of a war on terrorism, but isn't war a form of terrorism? Are we just laying the groundwork for another attack, and another war, and on and on?"
Brown is the skin of Staff Sergeant Camilo Mejia.
As he entered his final semester of college in January 2003, Camilo's army unit was activated. By April, Camilo and his unit were in
The "fear of dying has the power to turn soldiers into real killing machines," said Camilo. In
In March 2004, Camilo speaks out against the war and refuses to do further service. He surrenders himself to the
"Behind these bars I sit a free man, because I listened to a higher power, the voice of my conscience," writes Camilo in prison. In his letter, Camilo apologizes to the Iraqi people: "To them I say I am sorry for the curfews, for the raids, for the killings. May they find it in their hearts to forgive me."
White is the skin of Mike Hoffman. Hoffman has a red goatee and moussed dark hair; he is American.
When Hoffman arrived in
It was evident "we couldn't force democracy on people by force of arms. After being in
Soon after, Hoffman forms the group Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) and emerges as one of the most visible members of a small but growing movement of soldiers who openly oppose the
"Boys are dying in
 "The colour of heaven," Jane Szita, Holland Herald, November 2004. Blue paint first appeared "around 3,000 BC in ancient
 Camilo Mejia was the first American veteran of the 2nd
 "Breaking ranks," David Goodman, MotherJones.org, October 11, 2004.