Again we respond to horrific tragedy in our social media communities. It makes me sick that an acceptable protocol has evolved for expressing grief. In days gone by a tolling of church bells or a lowered flag were the symbols of national calamity. Now we have an array of profile pics and memes to tell our sorrow, invoke a higher power, urge greater love. We "react" and we "share" until the moment has passed.
And when the next horrific slaughter occurs we will be ready to do it all again.
I was surprised to see some people use an American flag yesterday to express their solidarity with the victims and their families. I understood quite well the rainbow images I was seeing. The Rainbow flag is the standard of the LGBTQ cause and the act of terror and hate was committed in a well-known Orlando gay nightclub. But I realized that I had an almost visceral response to seeing the traditional red, white, and blue.
I shrank from it. Why?
The Rainbow flag is a flag of inclusion, acceptance. It celebrates diversity. Does the American flag? Do our LGTBQ brothers and sisters see an American flag and feel it speaks for them? Certainly many have fought and even died in military service to defend it and what it represents. As teachers they have taught students to say the Pledge of Allegiance. As judges and lawyers they have upheld notions crucial to holding this republic together.
But what does it mean to them?
Does this flag represent inclusion and acceptance? Does it celebrate their diversity? Most importantly, does this flag guarantee their equal protection under the law?
It does not. Not anywhere near enough.
More often than not the people who wrap themselves in the American flag do so to exclude and and revile those who are different. That's not how it should be. If our nation claims to be a place of Liberty and Justice for All, we are doing very poorly indeed.
And we are doing poorly not merely by our LGBTQ citizens, but also by African-Americans, Hispanics, the chronically and deeply poor, the mentally ill...I would hazard a guess that there are people in almost every state working to create policies and laws that define "those people" as less than American. Less than worthy of protection.
The truth is that memes of candles and rainbows and hearts and words of love are just barely holding back the tide of hate speech on social media. I want to believe, like Lin-Manuel Miranda, that
Love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love cannot be killed or swept aside.
But this flag, though.
To whom does it belong? Does it remain a pure symbol of a diverse nation which is somehow indivisible? Does it still speak the promise of Liberty and Justice for All? Or is it merely a casualty of war, diluted and defiled by hate?
Should we reclaim it for all that is good? I really don't know if that's possible at this point. I do know that, if I were in trouble or in danger, I'd much rather wrap myself in a Rainbow Flag, because I know what that means.
I love my country. I love the ideals which brought it into life. I would proudly admit to being patriotic if that did not make me think of other, darker things. I'm struggling to see the beauty.
I don't want to give up hope.