So Many Rainbows – The Washington Post
In this country where citizens face massive outbursts of gun violence with horrifying regularity, these public memorials have become all-too-familiar exercises in catharsis. They may be reflective responses, but they are still deeply moving spectacles. People stack bouquets of flowers near the crime site. They leave handwritten notes of condolence for the victims most of whom have never met, in which they nonetheless swear not to forget the lives lost and command the deceased to rest in peace and power.
Each tragedy brings its own uniquely heartbreaking visual heartache. The younger the victims, the more childhood memories are cut short: toys, stuffed animals, portraits of toothless schoolchildren. After the murder at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, in 2017, the victims were honored with crosses. After the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh in 2018, the dead were counted with Stars of David. And earlier this month at the University of Virginia, because the three students killed were also playing football, memorials were personalized with gaming helmets, footballs and references to their jersey numbers. .
How the Colorado Mass Shooting Unfolded – and Ended – Inside Club Q
In Colorado Springs, color is a powerful symbol. It represents gender, sexuality, identity, expression. It is a way of clarifying our understanding of who has been lost, not individually but collectively. It tells us what segment of our human community has been desecrated. It doesn’t tell you everything you need to know, but it is something. The transgender flag, with its sky blue, pale pink and white stripes, serves as a point of correction in how gender has been defined, understood and stereotyped. The addition of black and brown stripes to the familiar rainbow flag is an admission of a long-standing omission of people of color from the central conversation; it recognizes the diversity within the LGBTQ tribe.
Flags are educational tools for the uninitiated; they are sticks for progress and change; they are signposts of welcome and comfort. The panoply of colors animates mass culture; it is a statement of political solidarity and political power. It is a commentary on the complexity and nuances inherent in each individual. Flags are statements about who exists in this world and their right to do so loud and clear. The colors appeal to marginalized people to let them know that it is not because they are a minority or live in the shadows that they are alone.
Watching the images of people hugging and crying and standing in the cold air at the site of so much trauma is like standing alongside a river of emotions that overflows its banks. Individuals stand as a statement of solidarity. Every time someone comes in, they add another layer of color, another detail to the mosaic. It’s a way to share the pain and horror, as well as to commit to supporting the journey of healing.
In Colorado Springs, people have planted colorful hearts in the ground that declare, “Hate has no home here. And it’s a wonderful feeling, a candy-coated notion. But the truth is that hate has been sown in every corner of the country – elementary schools, big box stores, movie theaters, places of worship. The job is to dislodge the roots.
People raise flags and turn into walking rainbow flags with multi-colored dresses, bandanas and jackets to claim ownership of a place. Club Q was a place of familiarity and joy for many who consider themselves part of the LGBTQ community. But those proud colors are also a statement of ownership that extends beyond a nightclub in the American West. They go beyond the state, beyond the country. These colors do not run. They didn’t do it before the shooting and they won’t do it after.
A weekend of violence punctuates generations of hatred
Despite the palpable pain, it’s hard to look at those bright shades of red, yellow and purple and not see some semblance of hope, some sad optimism. Exposed colored flags are not battlefield wound markers. They are not fiercely sinister even though they represent a community that has had to fend off fears, lies and demagogy aimed at preventing them from living their lives to the fullest. The flags are an exuberant rebuke. A reminder that this community has fought back for generations with political will, economic might and stubborn optimism. The will be be joy. The will be be.
All of these color combinations signify different segments of the LGBTQ community. They sort people under different banners, put them under different headings. It’s not such a terrible thing. Everyone needs to be seen, to be connected. Everyone wants to find their loved ones.
But the beauty of all these colors is that they can be combined in countless ways to tell a small part of everyone’s story. In the aftermath of this tragedy, there is a glimmer of hope amid mounds of faded flowers and melting candles and wrung out emotions. The entire human community is represented in these rainbows. They lean towards solidarity. But only if you look closely.