“I am heterosexual,” began a comment I recently received, “It never occurred to me to be ‘proud’ of being heterosexual. Did it ever occur to you that you were proud of being heterosexual?” This question was framed in reaction to a Pentagon gay pride event—only a half hour event, but official nonetheless.
The correspondent went on. “I was ‘proud’ to be in the military and ‘proud’ to be serving my country, and that was enough for me. Blacks were treated far worse than gays in the military until recently, but I’m not aware that there are annual ‘black pride’ events. Yet they have a lot of military history to be proud of. I am not aware of a ‘native American pride’ event in the Pentagon, yet native Americans have a proud history of military service. These groups apparently do not feel the need to be ‘celebrated’ at some annual official government-sponsored event, for their record of heroic service speaks for itself. I am all for homosexuals being proud of serving heroically in the United States military. But not to be proud just for being gay.”
I don’t know the factors involved in the Pentagon’s approach to celebrations of any sort, much less those for specific issues. I don’t know that there have not been similar celebrations for native Americans and blacks. I am suspicious of—yet not qualified to comment on—the claim that gays have been treated better than blacks. But I did have an immediate reaction to the foregoing sentiments about pride.
I agree that being proud of being gay makes no sense at all. . . unless the social order surrounding gays demeans, criticizes, makes jokes of, and mistreats gays. . . or did for so long that gays’ psychic wounds and anger can’t be expected to change quickly even if oppressors grow less oppressive.
I agree that being proud of being black makes no sense at all. . . unless the social order surrounding blacks demeans, criticizes, makes jokes of, and mistreats blacks. . . or did for so long that blacks’ psychic wounds and anger can’t be expected to change quickly even if oppressors grow less oppressive.
I agree that being proud of being atheist makes no sense at all. . . unless the social order surrounding atheists demeans, criticizes, makes jokes of, and mistreats atheists. . . or did for so long that atheists’ psychic wounds and anger can’t be expected to change quickly even if oppressors grow less oppressive.
Of course, that list goes on much longer depending on the time, the society, and the severity of current or former oppression. (Perhaps the word oppression sounds over-the-top to persons convinced of their benevolence. But it is a real and present phenomenon in which most of any society partake, not one confined to past ages, other cultures, and pogroms.) It seems to me that pride—even manufactured pride—is an important ingredient in an oppressed minority’s pulling itself up to the level of confidence and self-esteem that the non-oppressed inherit as an unearned gift. In such a process, it is inevitable that some unnecessary excess happens along the way. After all, several decades ago not all feminists were bra-burners, but it’s unlikely a women’s movement without a few bra-burners would have made as much progress. However, oppressors and former oppressors are hardly in a moral position to judge what constitutes “excess.”
Frankly, I find such audacity of a straight, white male of my vintage to be irksome and unreflective, seemingly more driven by uncharitable discomfort with the sociological “other” than with understanding and compassion. Come to think of it, had people like me been more understanding, empathetic, and accepting of the variety of humans and human experience, there’d be no problem to overcome to start with and, therefore, no reason for pride in a classification of humans no more relevant than left-handedness and brunette hair.
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