The Big Babies Are Afraid of Rainbow Bridges Now


June is upon us, which means it's time to prepare for summertime truths. Hurricane season looms, science fiction-style bugs will scamper into the house and most of us will be captive inside a Target during at least one thunderstorm.

But please be aware of the biggest seasonal risk: Rapidly increasing temperatures will render a bunch of sensitive adults extra fussy, much like babies who have dropped their pacifiers but do not yet have the vocabulary to ask for help.

The thing that will really push these grown toddlers over the edge? Rainbows. Yes, rainbows. The resplendent Roy G. Biv himself will force a certain faction of unsettlingly large infants into a jumbo Pack 'N Play reserved for sniveling wah-wah sadsie pants.

It's crucial this June to take care of the snowflakes in your life. That's because June is Pride month in America, marking a celebration of the LGBTQ+ community and acknowledging the ongoing struggle for rights in commemoration of the 1969 Stonewall Uprising. This observance, as you may know, often comes alongside a variety of rainbow imagery. It does not insist that anyone turn gay, despite what a nearby stack of three kindergarteners inside a trench coat might tell you.

June means rainbow flags will appear on lawns, on storefronts and in parades, often with no adequate trigger warnings! Corporations will change Instagram avatars without prior approval from the government! Indeed, it's going to be a challenging month for swaddled newborns agitated by the presence of many colors all in a row.

Those petulant bundles of joy are already fully activated. Take the Sunshine Skyway bridge in Florida, Tampa Bay's most recognizable symbol of connectedness, a bustling thoroughfare that touches several counties. For the past three years, the Florida Department of Transportation has lit the bridge with a rainbow motif for one week in June.

But this year, a sole commissioner in Manatee County disapproved of this prismatic harbinger of human understanding. He also objected to a color scheme promoting National Gun Violence Awareness Day, and, wow. Imagine making part of your platform ... tamping down gun violence awareness.

Now, you're asking: "I know rainbow fear is a real thing, and I respect these giant preschoolers' need for additional sensitivity. But how can one moppet's opinion bring down an entire community event?"

Great question, because it's not really supposed to work that way. Pride advocates and reporters tried to ask for explanations, greeted in return by the sounds of crickets chirping in a moonlit field.


You see, the department entertains requests for bridge colors around all sorts of causes, holidays and international affairs. This summer, though, that's all out. Florida bridges will cast red, white and blue lights from Memorial Day to Labor Day in honor of Freedom Summer, a sales tax holiday that takes place in July, as it is important to consistently bring awareness to sales tax breaks.

This is not the first rainbow bridge dustup in Florida, which has a history of Pride-related waffling. In 2021, the state's transportation agency denied three requests to display rainbow lights on bridges in Jacksonville, Sarasota and Tampa Bay, before eventually relenting.

This latest opaque and frankly weird move does fit with the state's recent behavior, that of a prekindergarten student who refuses to nap after demolishing four Uncrustables. State officials have sloppily fingerpainted over all things approaching nonhetero ever since Gov. Ron DeSantis made playground bullying a central tenet of his failed run for president.

So, irritable nestlings can rest easy. As they cruise over Florida's bridges this summer, they will not be forced to gaze upon any color scheme involving pink and indigo. They will not have to consider any diversity of existence, nor complex histories of persecution. Their kids, too, can stay blissfully protected from the danger of witnessing rainbow bridges, both this kind and the kind our pets cross when they die, which is an additional bonus because talking about death is also hard, and the goal this summer is to turn the focus toward a 6% savings on coolers, tackle boxes and small grills. A safe space.


Stephanie Hayes is a columnist at the Tampa Bay Times in Florida. Follow her at @stephhayes on Twitter or @stephrhayes on Instagram.


Copyright 2024 Creators Syndicate Inc.



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