Caspar David Friedrich, Landscape with Rainbow, 1810
Caspar David Friedrich, Mountain Landscape with a Rainbow, c.1809 - 1810
John Constable, View of London from Hampstead Heath with a Double Rainbow, 1831
John Constable, Double Rainbow, 1812
JMW Turner, Arundel Castle with a Rainbow, c. 1824 - 1825
JMW Turner, The Thames with a Rainbow, c.1812
William Blake, The Death of the Virgin Mary, 1803
William Blake, The Four and Twenty Elders Throw Down Their Crowns Before the Throne,
Noah Frees the Animals from the Ark, 12th century mosaic, Saint Mark's
From the Noah Window, Chartres Cathedral, 13th century
Giotto, The Last Judgement, detail, from the Arena Chapel, Padua, 1304 - 1305
Adriaen van den Venne, Fishing for Souls, 1614
Peter Paul Rubens, Landscape with Rainbow, 1636
Frederick Church, Rainy Season in the Tropics, 1866
Albert Bierstadt, Fallen Stag and Rainbow
George Inness, The Rainbow, 1878 - 1879
George Inness, The Delaware Water Gap, 1866
John Everett Millais, The Blind Girl, 1856
Ford Maddox Brown, Walton on Naze, 1859
Maurice Predergast, Rainbow, 1905
Hans Hofmann, Veluti in Speculum, 1962
Mark Rothko, No. 6 (Violet, Green, and Red), 1951
Morris Louis, Saraband, 1959
Judy Chicago, Rainbow Pickett, 1965
The rainbow is in trouble these days.
A rainbow is a fleeting optical effect; the sunlight broken up into its constituent spectrum colors when shining on falling water or mist, a trifling ephemeral thing. And yet, like so many trifling ephemeral things, the rainbow is one of those things that makes life worth the bother of living it. To see one is always a happy thrill and a great good fortune.
The rainbow plays a powerful role in human imagination, usually as a symbol of hope or glory, especially in religious art.
Today, the rainbow plays a different symbolic role; unity in diversity. Just as sunlight is the sum of all the different colors of the spectrum, so The Just Society, The Beloved Community, is the sum of all of its members and is incomplete if even one is missing. The rainbow means equality without uniformity. It means belonging without having to sacrifice identity. The rainbow in our day is the ultimate cosmopolitan symbol. That's why the LGBTQ movement made the rainbow its symbol. We are there in every nation and tribe on earth transcending class, race, nationality, sect, condition, etc.
LGBTQ people are among the primary beneficiaries of a global cosmopolitan culture.
Now that vision of a global cosmopolitan society is under attack. The global economy benefitted legions of people, but also badly hurt legions more destroying livelihoods and uprooting communities. Ironically, it is capital that internationalized despite all the calls since 1848 for the workers of the world to unite. In the upper reaches of international capital, national loyalty is a very quaint thing. Capital's first loyalty is always to itself. At the heart of the problem is market capitalism's assumption that everything and everyone is disposable, that the very idea of any intrinsic value apart from use and exchange is meaningless. We voted for a world divided between winners and losers, between the necessary and the superfluous, and now we reap the whirlwind. Working classes now turn against internationalism and cosmopolitanism toward nationalism, sectarianism, and even racism. The cold relentless anonymity of modern life, the nihilism and predation at the heart of international market capitalism drives the reactionary fury in religious fundamentalist movements.
Gay folk around the world are under attack as beneficiaries of that cosmopolitanism, as its living embodiments, even if we've suffered the global economy along with everyone else.
vandalized Rainbow Flag from Tomball, Texas
San Francisco artist Gilbert Baker created the rainbow flag in 1978 and assigned very specific meanings to each color. He originally designed an 8 stripe flag, but printing and dying techniques of the day required that the flag be edited to six stripes arranged as they are in the spectrum and in the rainbow with the red stripe always on top. That 6 stripe rainbow flag may not be quite what Baker intended, but it is closer to the real rainbow in nature. As is true with all flags, the rainbow flag acquired meanings and associations through its history, despite whatever the designer originally intended. Today it stands as the symbol of our community and the unity in diversity that is its nature. The rainbow that according to the ancient stories God put into the sky as a visible sign of the covenant he made with Noah to never again destroy the earth with a flood, now reminds us that we belong in the world, that we are natural. The rainbow is a sign in the sky of the Beloved Community that we long for.