2A supporters stung by shooting in Alexandria

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The right wing in this country has a problem. The very thing they’ve been hyping (urging, threatening, promising, hoping for) has finally happened. A man used a gun to strike out against government tyranny. What do they do now,  as reality sinks in?  From preliminary reports, it looks like it was someone from the left who decided the government had gone too far, and acted out Paul’s Tweet. The 2A crowd has, for years (especially the last eight), been threatening to take up arms against a government they don’t like. Since Sarah Palin and Donald Trump’s threats that “second amendment people” might act to change the results of elections, and of the “second amendment remedies” suggested by Sharon Angle, the rhetoric of violence has floated around the right-wing echo chamber for years, always prodded along by Fox, the NRA, and the gun lobby. Rand Paul and people like him simply never thought THEY would be the targets.

This creates quite the conundrum for those caressing their AR-15s as they keep an eye out for the black helicopters. How could it be that a liberal snowflake was the one that actually carried out the mission they’ve been preparing for all these years? He can’t do that! Didn’t he know that’s their gig?

If this wasn’t such a tragic incident, it might be funny. Especially the way some on the far right are twisting themselves into pretzels to blame the attack on President Obama.  Just how that’s supposed to work, I don’t know. Trying to make sense of right-wing-gun-nut “thinking” will just cause a migraine, so best not to try.

So now we wait for the FBI and the Capitol Police to complete their investigations. Cable news will fill hundreds of hours of air time with promises not to speculate before the facts are in, as they go right ahead and speculate anyway.

Some will engage in gallows humor, reporting “Congratulations, USA! It’s been “0” days since your last mass shooting!” (already seen on Twitter)

The fact that another mass shooting occurred only hours later in San Francisco will get some air time, but not much.

Other western nations will again wonder just what in the hell is going on in America? Why do we continue to allow these massacres to happen? I suppose we should remind them that twenty first graders were not too many to sacrifice to “shall not be infringed”, so why would anyone expect that anything will ever change?

Will this incident create an environment where those that have long prodded the hornet’s nest will tone down their rhetoric? Especially since the first sting was to their own kin? I suspect not, but we can hope. They will most likely continue to spout their wackery, and blame Hillary or Obama or the UN or the New World Order or…  whatever comes next down the pike from Fox, Breitbart, and Bannon.

Of course I condemn the violence, and hope those injured make a rapid and complete recovery. Kudos to the security team that jumped into action to protect the assembled crowd, their actions no doubt limited the carnage that might otherwise have ensued.

I also send my appreciation to the dispatchers, policemen, firefighters, EMTs, and other first responders who leapt into action with the first panicked 9-1-1 calls. Their actions to protect and serve will always be under-reported, and under-appreciated.

Image: Senator Rand Paul’s Twitter feed.

 

One year after Orlando – the massacre at Pulse still reverberates

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It’s only been a year. The deadliest mass shooting in US history was also the largest single attack against LGBT Americans, surpassing the arson fire at New Orlean’s UpStairs Lounge (which killed 32 patrons on June 24, 1973).  Orlando’s Pulse nightclub was holding Latin Night when terror struck. Forty nine died, many from the Puerto Rican community surrounding Orlando. Word began spreading quickly after news of the attack broke. The LGBT community, like the nation at large, was in shock.

Here in Visalia, The Source LGBT+ Center, barely open for a month, organized a vigil within a few hours. Hundreds attended Sunday evening, filling the sidewalk and spilling onto Main Street. Leaders of several faith traditions and churches from the area led the crowd in somber remembrance, prayer, and a time of silence. The Visalia Times Delta asked for some words on the day, and I submitted this article: Fear Will Not Win.

In the year since, we’ve tried to move on, remembering Pulse, refusing to give in to fear, and working even more intensely to protect and serve our community.

In the days following the attack, we never suspected that a year later we would have to again worry about the rights and freedoms won in difficult battles being ripped away, this time by our own government. An administration hostile to our community has taken power in Washington, D.C., and in a few short months has tried to undo as much of the progress we’ve made as they can.  A year after Orlando, we’ve felt compelled to change some of our annual Pride Parades to Resist Marches.

A year after Orlando, and almost five years after Sandy Hook, we still have not addressed the issue of easy access to weapons of mass destruction by anyone with the money to purchase them. Congress even made it easier for individuals with mental health problems to buy guns. The body count, even when it includes 20 first graders, or 49 young adults at a nightclub, is not yet high enough.

The Pulse Nightclub will remain a footnote in history to most, but it will remain in our memories as a stark reminder that no matter how much progress we’ve made, the hatred held by some can still rise up and kill. Sometimes it’s a religious or political fanatic with a gun, and sometimes it’s a church with a doctrine of hatred against the LGBT community preached from the pulpit.

We’ll remember The Pulse today. We’ll always hold it in our thoughts. We’ll always remember that the LGBT+ community has come a long way, but still has far to go. The horror of that night in Orlando will always be with us, but it will not be allowed to cower us, slow us, or diminish our resolve.

One year ago. Today. Fear will not win.

Image: The Source LGBT+ Center leads a candle light vigil on Visalia’s Main Street, June 12, 2016.

Supervisor Shuklian honors LGBT+ Center

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Amy Shuklian, representing District Three on the Tulare County Board of Supervisors, made a presentation at Tuesday’s Board meeting to recognize the first anniversary of The Source LGBT+ Center. During the “Supervisor’s Matters” segment, she presented a proclamation honoring the center and it’s accomplishments.

In one year of operation, The Source has welcomed over 2,000 walk-in visitors to the center, provided training and referrals to interested individuals, organizations, and governmental bodies. Experiencing ever increasing demands for it’s services, the center recently doubled it’s space at it’s downtown Visalia location. In a recent 24 hour national fundraising campaign, The Source LGBT+ Center placed second in a group of 95 similarly sized LGBT groups, winning an additional $5,000 over and above the more than $12,000 raised by local donors. Brian Poth, Executive Director, thanked Supervisor Shuklian for her support of the Center and it’s mission, noted the widespread support in the community for it’s mission and efforts, and invited the entire Board of Supervisors to attend the upcoming Pride Visalia, to be hosted by The Source LGBT+ Center on June 24.

Here is the text of the proclamation, signed by Supervisor Shuklian:
RECOGNIZING THE SOURCE LGBT+ CENTER ON ITS ONE YEAR ANNIVERSARY

WHEREAS, the Source is the only LGBT center in Tulare County and is celebrating its one year anniversary; and

WHEREAS, it has served thousands of Tulare County residents by providing resources,recommendations, referrals, and education services to citizens and organizations; and

WHEREAS, the SOURCE LGBT+ Center has partnered with high school and college GSAs to deliver such resources and has also provided training to public agencies such as the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office; and

WHEREAS, since its inception the center has held community meetings, provided training sessions to local government agencies to educate them on how they can better serve the LGBT community, tabled at numerous public events, and welcomed well over a thousand visitors to the downtown Visalia center; and

WHEREAS, driven by demand for its services, the SOURCE LGBT+ Center recently doubled its community center’s size.

It is an honor to recognize the SOURCE LGBT+ Center on its one year anniversary and recognize the month of June 2017 as LGBT Pride month.

June 6, 2017
Amy Shuklian, District Three

Image: Brian Poth, left, Executive Director, The Source LGBT+ Center; Amy Shuklian, Supervisor District Three; Nick Vargas, Board President The Source LGBT+ Center;  June 6, 2017  taken at the Tulare County Board of Supervisor’s Chambers, Visalia 

June is LGBT Pride Month – and boy, is it going to be busy!

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Governor Jerry Brown has issued a proclamation designating June 2017 as LGBT Pride Month in California. On Tuesday, June 6, Tulare County Supervisors Board member Amy Shuklian will also make a presentation, recognizing the first anniversary of The Source LGBT+ Center, and June as LGBT Pride Month. Notably absent this year is a proclamation from the White House, breaking an eight year tradition.

But the BIG news is happening right here in Visalia!

On Saturday, June 24, The Source LGBT+ Center will host Pride Visalia 2017. Pride Visalia will be a departure from previous Pride events held here. (I bet many of you didn’t know Visalia has held Pride events since the 90’s, right?) From the first Pride picnics in the 90’s, to Queer Visalia’s Pride in the Park events of 2008, 2009, and 2010, and Family Fest at Mooney Grove Park in 2009, 2010, and 2011, the Tulare County LGBT community has a long and varied history of celebrating June Pride.  Why June? Here’s why: The Stonewall Inn.

This year, we start a new tradition. With sponsors such as Equality California, The California Endowment‘s Stayloud project, Wells Fargo Bank, and others, PRIDE VISALIA will be the largest Pride event ever held in Tulare County. Festivities begin at 10 AM and run through 6 PM, at the Old Lumberyard, 300 E. Oak Ave., Visalia. Entry donation is $5 (children under 10 years of age are free). Tickets available online here, or at the door. There will be food and merchandise vendors, live bands, entertainment, Illusions drag queen show, a kid’s zone, and tabling by local non-profits and service organizations.  Work continues on organizing this community event, and I’ll update here as more information becomes available.

Pride Visalia 2017 promises to be a historic event in local LGBT history, and with plans to make this an annual celebration, the kickoff to an even brighter future for the LGBT+ community in Visalia, Tulare County, and the central San Joaquin Valley.

Here’s a quick break-down of events that may be of interest to Tulare County residents:

June 2 – First Friday Art Walk, Visalia. The Source LGBT+ Center will be one of ten venues displaying locally created art. 5 – 8 PM, downtown Visalia.

June 3 – Fresno’s Rainbow Pride Parade and Festival. The parade starts at 10AM, in the Tower District on Olive. The festival is 11AM to 3PM, at Olive and Wishon. Festival entry donation is $5.

June 6 – “Supervisor’s Matters”, Tulare County Board of Supervisors, 7PM, 2800 W. Burrel, Visalia. Supervisor Amy Shuklian will recognize The Source LGBT+ Center for it’s one year anniversary, and June as Pride month.

June 7 – Volunteer training and orientation at The Source LGBT+ Center. Anyone wanting to be a volunteer at the community center must first complete this one-night training program, and undergo a background check. Information at 559-429-4277

June 10-11 – West Hollywood L.A. Pride (always a biggie). The parade is on Sunday, June 11, and begins at 11AM on Santa Monica Blvd, which will be closed between Fairfax and Doheny Dr. The festival is a two-day event, Saturday and Sunday.

June 24-25 – San Francisco Pride. Parade on Market Street Sunday, June 25, at 10:30 AM. Nobody does a Pride Parade like San Francisco!

Check back for updates as we approach the biggest LGBT+ party Tulare County has ever seen!