What is it about a rainbow flag that drives some people nuts? Are they just colorphobic? Do they take offense at flags generally? Or is the idea that all people might be welcome — in our communities, at our civic events, in our schoolyards — just too much to take for people who don’t want to give up the unfair advantages they’ve enjoyed for generations?

Last week, Pacifica Police reported an 11-day-old hate crime at Sunset Ridge Elementary School. Someone removed a rainbow flag that was affixed outside the classroom being used for a city-led after-school program. By now, everyone understands the flags, which originated more than 40 years ago in San Francisco, symbolize support for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer and nonbinary communities. Because bigots struggle with original thought, the flag was burned, according to a police report. Its remnants were found on the other side of campus.

The resulting release from Pacifica Police recognized the gravity of the incident, calling it a “hate crime at a city-owned facility.”

“This type of crime is in strong contrast to deeply held values the city of Pacifica and community members believe in,” Police Chief Dan Steidle said in a prepared statement. “Crimes involving hate will not be tolerated in our community and will be thoroughly investigated.”

This happens to be Pride Month, and during June the rainbow seems to be proudly displayed across the Coastside. The flag is outside municipal offices in Pacifica and Half Moon Bay. Pacifica put on its first-ever Pride parade. A separate affair in downtown Half Moon Bay over the weekend celebrated creativity and togetherness in an event that highlighted what we stand to gain from including everyone in civic affairs.

Yet, we can’t be lulled into believing that a parade or a flag somehow guarantees a more equal footing. Obviously. There are still those who hear “equality” and think “replacement.” After all, if the LGBTQ+ community moves forward it must be in relation to individuals who are not so forward-thinking. In other words, if “they” gain equal footing, it must mean that “we” gave up our higher ground, right? Understand that when the Proud Boys among us scream “freedom,” they aren’t talking about the freedom for all of us to take pride in who we are.

And let’s face it. It isn’t just flag-burners, book-banners and fringe loons who can’t stand the freedom to be ourselves. Data from the American Civil Liberties Union and the LGBTQ+ organization Freedom for All Americans recently counted 238 legislative bills proposed in the nation’s statehouses that they consider anti-LGBTQ+ in nature. These proposals run from trying to solve problems that don’t exist (like banning trans girls from competing in high school sporting competitions) to truly cruel efforts such as the Texas governor’s bright idea of unleashing vigilantes to report parents for seeking gender-affirming medical care.

As usual in this country, we have seen the enemy and it is staring back at us from the mirror.

One answer is to make it clear, in our community, hate won’t be tolerated. We’ll prosecute hate crimes. We’ll stand with our neighbors. If someone burns a flag here, we’ll put up two more. Because somewhere, over the rainbow, there is a better tomorrow.

 — Clay Lambert

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