During the holiday season, streets in Italian villages and cities sport Christmas lights, a different color and style for each street. Via del Corso, a main street in the downtown shopping area in Rome, has strings of lights that run for almost a mile, from Piazza del Popolo to the Vittorio Emanuelle II monument. In 2011 the lights were green, white, and red, the colors of the Italian flag, and in 2012 all of the lights were white. To take a stand against homophobia after a gay teenager committed suicide in Rome, this year members of the local council hoisted a rainbow above Via del Corso.
This gesture was not universally popular, and some demanded that the rainbow be replaced. When Nelson Mandela died last week, the Christmas lights on Via del Corso were dedicated to him as a way to defuse the tension. The woman who designed the lights said, “This way the message of love, tolerance, unity, and sharing will become stronger.”
Nelson Mandela would have supported the rainbow for gays, because he supported freedom and tolerance for everyone. Certainly honoring Mandela isn’t a bad thing, but then neither was honoring gays.
To my many gay friends and former co-workers, I will look at that rainbow and think of you and feel grateful for your friendship through the years. I wish you a happy, rainbow-colored holiday season.