Misplaced Pride And Its Consequences

     Pride is one of the more controversial elements in the human psyche. Excessive pride, a.k.a. vanity, is one of the seven capital sins. However, just pride – i.e., a proportionate pride in one’s own accomplishments, is all right. In fact, it’s damned near impossible to suppress.

     But there’s also a foolish variety of pride: pride taken over something the “proud one” had nothing to do with. Pride in an ethnic affiliation (“Proud to be Puerto Rican”). Pride in being a member of some occupational group (“But are you a good subterranean sanitation engineer?”). And finally for today’s tirade, pride in one’s sexual orientation or “identity.”

     What with all the “pride days,” “pride months,” and “pride parades” nowadays, you could be forgiven for thinking that the whole world is in caught up in a frenzy of “pride” – and that a good big part of it has gone totally BLEEP!ing nuts. None of the things being publicly proclaimed and celebrated, as far as I can tell, concerns an achievement – and therefore every little bit of it is foolish. The celebrants are preening themselves over something they have never had any control over. At least, when you get a few drinks into one of them, you’ll start to hear moans about how “I wouldn’t have asked to be born this way.” (Whatever “way” he / she / it / they / xir happens to be “proud of.”)

     But there’s more to be said about the phenomenon. Hearken to Kevin Downey Jr. from a few days ago:

     I was performing a stand-up comedy show for a farmer’s convention in State College, Pa., a few years ago. The emcee started the show by saying, “So I’m gay,” in a somewhat challenging way to the 300 farmers in the crowd. When the crowd didn’t respond, the comedian proceeded to tell them that they were homophobic rubes. They were “too hillbilly” to recognize his “Pride pashima,” and they were certainly too close-minded to be treated to his material regarding his gender-fluid partner, Robert or Sasha, depending on how Rob/Sash was identifying that day. As we say in the industry, he bombed like a B-52. Not because the audience hates gay people; they didn’t care. He died like disco because he attacked the crowd.

     From his behavior, the unnamed emcee believed he had a right to the audience’s approval. It wasn’t his “pride” that was at issue; it was the audience’s readiness or unreadiness to applaud him for it. The audience, God bless each and every one in it, did not care. More to the point, they didn’t want to care. And they declined to be made to care…which is what upset the unnamed emcee.

     Does anyone else remember an Erick Erickson column titled “You Will Be Made To Care” — ? I do. Erickson’s final few words were a spot-on prediction – a perfect harbinger for the culture war in progress:

     Catholic writer G. K. Chesterton once commented, “Abolish God, and the Government becomes God.” The left’s god shows no mercy and no grace. You may wish to sit on the sidelines, but you too will be made to care.

     The Left is obsessed with getting its way – i.e., with the power to compel whatever outcome it’s currently fixated on. Whenever the Left decides to make an “identity group” into a political mascot, it “starts small:” it asks for legal and social tolerance of that “identity” But it seldom takes long to learn that that’s just the entering wedge.

     Homosexuals were the first, if memory serves. Legal and social toleration of homosexuals was fairly easily obtained. But it developed that that wasn’t enough. They demanded to be treated as normal – fully as normal as heterosexuals. After that it was a short step to demanding that a critical religious and social institution must be redefined to accommodate homosexual couples.

     Never mind that that institution had evolved specifically to protect fertile women and their minor children from male caprice, and male obligations from female duplicity. The normalization of homosexuality required that the institution be opened to couples that would derive absolutely no benefit from its legal and social lineaments. “If you won’t marry us, you’re saying we aren’t normal,” rose the plaint. Well, as it happens homosexuality is not normal. It afflicts around 3% of the population, which makes it an exception, even an aberration in biological terms. But the activists campaigned so loudly, and in many cases so viciously, that eventually the Supreme Court threw up its hands and ruled that American governments are required to recognize same-sex marriage. By some penumbra or emanation from the Constitution, no doubt. Right next to the one that makes prenatal infanticide “a woman’s right to choose.”

     The reason conservatives call our cultural strife a “culture war” is because of the bad feeling, and the occasional overt conflicts, it engenders. The specific “identity” at issue doesn’t matter. What does matter is the insistence that members of Identity X are entitled, first by “moral decency” and later by the law itself, to the acceptance, toleration, and approval of others. Claims of such entitlements at the base of the majority of our social conflicts.

     Back when were we taught at Mom’s knee to “keep your private business private,” such conflicts were virtually unknown. You could be a homosexual, a bisexual, a transsexual, a worshipper of Thoth, or an eater of oysters out of season and not be harassed. All that was required was that you present a normal appearance to those around you. You could have roommates, “special friends,” two closets, a private shrine to Thoth, or a clandestine clamboat, and no one would need to hear about any of it. The key is that the overwhelming majority of us “normals” dislike confrontation. We prefer to go by appearances even should we suspect that there might be something else beneath the surface.

     It’s the transformation of a minority preference into a cause celebre, and the demand that everyone “get on board or else,” that causes all the grief. The citation from the Kevin Downey Jr. piece provides a perfect illustration.

     When an “identity group” demands that others care – that is, that we accept them and endorse their “pride” – is when the trouble starts. When the law gets involved, genuine anger and resentment become inevitable. Ultimately that anger and resentment will find a way to express itself. History records no exceptions to that pattern.