Raising the Flag

I’ve always appreciated the rainbow flag. I remember once, when my twin brother (a man of very few words) and I were on a long road trip. He turned to me suddenly and asked, “So why do the gays have a rainbow as their flag?” I laughed, partly at his choice of phrasing and partly because it was so random. But, the mere curiosity of his simple question struck me. He really wanted to know, he was being sincere. And I, being “one of the gays” had no clue. I thought, shouldn’t I know the answer to this question? After a little research and some Internet surfing, I found my answer.

A San Francisco artist by the name of Gilbert Baker designed the rainbow flag in 1978 after a local activist requested a community symbol.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½ Baker created a flag with eight stripes: pink, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. He proclaimed that these colors represented sexuality, life, healing, sun, nature, art, harmony and spirit. It wasn’t until after a well-known, openly gay political leader was assassinated that the San Francisco gay community decided to adopt the flag. Now the rainbow flag not only represents the dreams and aspirations of the gay community, it also provides a sense of pride.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½

I’ve been a fan of rainbows all of my life, even before I associated them with gay and lesbian pride. They are calming, especially when you see one rise up after the sun breaks through the seam of a dark gray cloud and lights up the sky. You don’t have to be gay to appreciated rainbows.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½ You can even be a 12-year-old boy, who buys a rainbow flag for his parents because it reminds him of Kansas and “The Wizard of Oz.” But you wouldn’t ever expect such a simple gift to cause one of the biggest controversies to ever hit your town.

In Meade, Kansas, protesters led by the notoriously anti-gay Rev. Fred Phelps gathered outside the balcony of the Lakeway Hotel where the rainbow flag flapped carelessly in the wind. According to Planetout.com, owners J.R. and Robin Knight said that they didn’t put up the flag to make a political statement but rather because “it has pretty colors, it’s bright, it’s summery.”

Someone decided to cut the flag down. The Knights bought two more and hung it up again. Bricks were thrown through their hotel windows. And now protestors are gathering outside of their hotel, all because their son thought the flag was cool and gave it to them a gift.

Robin Knight said that her family plans to keep the flag flying high because caving in and removing it would send the wrong message to their son. Meanwhile, the daughter of Rev. Phelps, along with own her children, continues to chant about gays burning in hell outside of the hotel. How can something so colorful and meaningful ignite so much hatred?

The fact that this particular rainbow flag has absolutely nothing to do with the gay and lesbian community and still caused a controversy simply by its association says a lot.
When people see the rainbow colors flying high, they automatically assume that whoever has hung the flag is either gay or making a political statement.

When you stop to think about it, does it really matter?

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