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  • Victoria A. Brownworth

America is a Gun: The Lavender Tube on Uvalde's Atrocities

May 31, 2022 Edge Media Network/Bay Area Reporter

TV only shows us so much. And yet more, sometimes, than we want to know.

The official press conferences May 24 were late in coming because the parents of the murdered children at the Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, had to walk through the carnage that had once been a place of learning and friendship and fun. They had to find and identify the bodies of their 8, 9, 10, and 11-year-old children; little kid bodies that had been decimated by an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle.

The thought of it is unbearable to contemplate, that this would be the last image of your child; crumpled and bloodied and barely recognizable, as if they had been gunned down on the streets of Lviv or Mariupol or some other global war zone.

That scene of carnage and vivisected kids from a true American horror story played out in the little border town of Uvalde, Texas that most of us never heard of before Salvador Ramos turned 18 and as a birthday present to himself, bought an arsenal for a war against society, killing 19 children and two teachers and wounding 14 more children and three more adults. He shot his own grandmother, who raised him, in the face.

We have seen this TV drama so many times in this country. Over and over and over again, a disgruntled male teenager or adult man with a list of grievances nurtured by Fox News and Donald Trump, 4chan and the NRA, gets an assault weapon and kills innocent people.

A week before Uvalde, a different 18-year-old, Payton Grendon, a white nationalist hater with a manifesto declaring his rage at Black people, Jews, and LGBTQ+ folks, killed 10 mostly elderly Black people and wounded 13 others at a Buffalo market.

And as we begin to celebrate Pride, we also commemorate the sixth anniversary of the second worst mass shooting in US history at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando on June 12, 2016. That massacre killed 49 LGBTQ+ people and wounded 53.

The youngest victim was Akyra Monet Murray, an 18-year-old from Philadelphia who had just graduated from high school the week before. The oldest was Brenda L. Marquez McCool, a 49-year-old mother of 11 and aunt of out actor Wilson Cruz, who was at the club to support her gay son, Isaiah Henderson. Henderson, 21, was among the injured.

It's been nearly a quarter century since Columbine first riveted us to our TV sets as we watched the dawn of a new era — the mass school shooting — unfold. Those survivors are middle-aged now, old enough to be the parents of the survivors of Sandy Hook.

This is how little we've done about these killings, that we have literal generations of school shooting survivors. This is how driven this country is by guns. Donald Trump — how is he even walking around free, an accused rapist and a treasonous quisling? — dared to speak at the NRA Convention just days after Uvalde. He called out Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot and Philadelphia mayor Jim Kenney for the gun violence in both cities, but not the hypocrites at the NRA, who banned guns from their own event.

On May 25, Jimmy Kimmel, who has repeatedly taken on the GOP and their pro-gun lobby and who Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene tried to get arrested for his comments about her, opened his show cold with one of the most powerful speeches on the Uvalde school massacre.
Kimmel cried. He raged. He questioned. He called out Greg Abbott and Ted Cruz and the NRA. And he ended his monologue saying, "Let's make sure that not one of these [pro-gun] politicians holds office ever again."

Folks are talking about Beto O'Rourke yelling at Gov. Greg Abbott, but Kimmel was more powerful. And he spoke as an ordinary guy and the father of a 7- and 5-year-old. Unafraid to cry in front of an audience, one knew that he could imagine the horror those parents experienced.

We say far too often that it has to stop, but really, only we can do that. As Kimmel said, vote them out. Vote every last murderous one of them out. The GOP thinks kids are more at risk from being taught Black history or reading a picture book about a couple of gay penguins than they are from having to do what one little Uvalde survivor did: Smear herself with the blood of a fallen classmate and play dead.

Salvador Ramos wasn't created in a vacuum. Nor was Payton Grendon. Nor Omar Mateen. U.S. gun culture — there are 400 million guns in America — bred and radicalized these young men, just like any madrassa. And the victims strewn in their wake? It's the same number as 9/11 every month in America. There have been 39 school shootings this year.
This is a TV column. We report what we see. And what we see is one political party enacting legislation every week that harms LGBTQ+ youth, but refuses to protect kids — or any of us — from guns.

Memorial Day is supposed to be for mourning our war dead. This year it was also for mourning the murders of two brave women teachers and 19 innocent kids.

Make it make sense.

"49 Pulses"

There is a searing, gut-wrenching documentary about the Pulse nightclub shooting, "49 Pulses," available on Amazon Prime and Netflix. Utilizing survivor interviews, re-enactments, and police body cameras, this documentary examines the Orlando nightclub shooting.

Filmmaker Charlie Minn "tries to answer several questions that remain unanswered about this tragedy, including why the perpetrator chose Pulse nightclub and why it took over three hours for police to stop the shooter. Through his interviews with the survivors, police, family members, and city officials, Minn pieces together how one of the largest mass shooting in American history took place."

The 911 tapes from inside the club as the killing was going on are brutal to hear. The whispered calls, the fear, the horror; it's palpable. "49 Pulses" is Pride programming, but it's not uplifting or comforting. It is, rather, a grim reminder that LGBTQ+ people are not safe in a homophobic and transphobic society, even in our own spaces.

Pride Never Stops

Pride Never Stops is Hulu's hub for June Pride programming. Among the offerings, all six seasons of "Glee" will debut on Hulu and Disney+ on June 1. "Glee" has been out of the streaming market for some time, so if you were always a gleek, or are feeling nostalgic, this is your time.

Also on Hulu are Seasons 1 and 2 of the Starz drama "Vida," on June 7. We loved this queer Latinx drama that follows two Mexican-American sisters. Emma (Mishel Prada) is queer and Lyn (Melissa Barrera) is not. The two are from the Eastside of Los Angeles, Boyle Heights.

The sisters have been estranged for years, returning home only because of the sudden death of their mother Vidalia (Vida). Upon their return, they are introduced to Vidalia's "roommate," Eddy. That's when they discover that Vida and Eddy weren't roommates — they were married.

Ser Anzoategui plays Eddy Martínez, the butch widow of Lyn and Emma's mother, Vida.

"Vida" is such a great series. You will want to watch this.
Also on Hulu for Pride is the exquisite and heartbreaking coming-of-age romance film "Wildhood." The film is about a duo of Two-Spirit, half-brothers who grow up estranged from their mother. Neither is centered in who they are, existing in a space of denial about their race and their sexuality.

They steal their father's truck and go in search of their mother, meeting another Two-Spirit guy along the way. Beautifully and hauntingly shot with nuanced performances by the three young men, "Wildhood" will stay with you for a long time.

The film is directed by Canadian Bretten Hannam, who identifies as a "Two-Spirit, non-binary Mi'kmaq person."

In an interview with Halifax City News, Hannam said, "Telling LGBTQ+ stories has been so huge for me. I began making queer content with actors who were Indigenous and who were readily available to help tell these stories."

They added, "I realized so much queer cinema — when it did exist — was so heavy. They had tragic gay tropes, and I wanted to make films that could resonate. I'm naturally drawn to this content. I can't wait to bring more stories with queer and Two-Spirit themes out, and I want to work with people who bring the script to life and find the nuances of the story appeal to them."

Trigger Warning

Five Republican U.S. senators are demanding that TV ratings be adapted to include trigger warnings for LGBTQ+ characters. Red state senators Roger Marshall (KS), Mike Lee (UT), Mike Braun (IN), Steve Daines (MT), and Kevin Cramer (ND) sent a letter to the TV Parental Guidelines Advisory Board asking the organization to update its ratings system to include whether a show contains content related to sexual orientation or gender identity.

They wrote: "In recent years, concerning topics of a sexual nature have become aggressively politicized and promoted in children's programming, including irreversible and harmful experimental treatments for mental disorders like gender dysphoria. To this end, we strongly urge you to update the TV Parental Guidelines and ensure they are up-to-date on best practices that help inform parents on this disturbing content."

The letter contends, "This dialogue often involves the promotion of irreversible experimental treatments that involve surgical and otherwise invasive cosmetic procedures that are detrimental and life-altering, and do not evidence medical necessity. The motivations of hypersexualized entertainment producers striving to push this content on young audiences are suspect at best and predatory at worst."

No examples were given, but Marshall's office told the Kansas City Star that Nickelodeon's "Danger Force" and "The Loud House," and Netflix's "She-Ra and the Princesses of Power" and "Dead End: Paranormal Park," exemplified the problem.

But guns in the hands of angry 18-year-olds aren't an issue?

So for all the madness and mayhem, and some glimmers of light for our Pride-ful month, you know you really must stay tuned.

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