Pride was once considered one of The Seven Deadly Sins. This began around 590 AD. Even in Shakespeare’s time, a thousand years later, Pride was still a flaw. It was in the same league as arrogance. Hamlet, for example, tells Ophelia:
I am myself indifferent honest; but yet I
could accuse me of such things that it were better my
mother had not borne me: I am very proud, revengeful,
ambitious, with more offences at my beck than I have
thoughts to put them in, imagination to give them shape,
or time to act them in.
— Hamlet, Act III, Scene 1
The world continues to change. Today we consider pride to be an asset. We encourage each other, as I believe we should, to be proud of our accomplishments. I frequently talk about my pride in an episode of this show, or a piece of writing I’ve done, or a video I’ve made, and no one criticizes me for it. I’m proud of my teaching career.
Today, Pride has an additional meaning. It’s a month-long celebration that was once confined to homosexuality but has now widened to include many marginalized groups. It’s a movement that says, essentially, “There is no Them; we are all Us.” It’s hardly shocking news, then, that I support this idea.
Why do we have so many marginalized groups? Why is there so much hatred that today transgender people are in physical danger simply because they made choices about their bodies that you probably didn’t make about yours? Why do so many despise Drag Queens, who have, to my knowledge, molested zero children, and yet these same folks who ask why Drag Queens want to read to children have no problem with the Catholic Church that has demonstrably sexually assaulted more than a thousand children? What is it that makes hatred so attractive to so many of us? What happened to Love?
I believe it’s because of our desire to control others. There’s no shortage of bigotry in the world.
Bigotry is deciding you’re not worthy because you’re not the right color, or ethnicity, or religion, or gender. It tells us you’re a bad person because your sexual orientation is different from many other people’s. It gets its authority from the power built into the system under which we live. The system tells marginalized groups you can’t eat here, buy a house here, run for public office, work for some people, or have your books in school libraries. It tells some people what they’re allowed to do with their own bodies, and it makes things dangerous for those who are different. On one level, the bigots know it’s bullshit. Jerry Falwell supposedly once bragged he made so much money vilifying gay people that if they didn’t exist, he’d have had to invent them. If you can make people afraid, you can control them. And there are those who have an unquenchable thirst for control.
Control is a thirst I honestly don’t understand. It’s not that I’ve never had control over others. For 29 years, I was paid to control 30 plus kids every day. I didn’t want to do it then, and even if I were 30 years old and healthy again, you couldn’t drag me back in there now. The kids had to be controlled, however, to keep them from hurting one another and keeping each other from learning. I had a plethora of methods of control, and I was good at it. Few of them had to do with fear. For me, it was the least effective resource. Students learned about themselves and each other when I was in control. Control doesn’t have to be evil and oppressive. Chaos is its opposite, and while there is beauty in chaos, it’s not conducive to learning. And that’s the second problem we’re facing: Ignorance.
We are dealing with a failure to understand that other people are different, and that difference is not synonymous with either being a threat to us, or an evil way of life. It’s a failure to empathize. A failure of humanity. We’ve lost our sense of compassion, and there are too many of us trying to bury love under heavy layers of concrete.
I was looking through my Facebook memories just now, and I found a post from 6 years ago in which I asked if we could drop the term “Snowflake” as an insult. And I was shocked when I read the comments to see that there were several people who wanted to continue to use it. People, they decided, needed to learn to deal with the fact that the world isn’t nice, that “safe spaces” are for pussies, and we all need to toughen up. In other words, compassion and empathy are only for the weak, and only the strong matter.
“Life is for the strong, to be lived by the strong, and, if needs be, taken by the strong. The weak of the world were put here to give the strong pleasure.”
— General Zaroff in “The Most Dangerous Game” by Richard Connell
General Zaroff is a psychotic hunter of human beings. You might as well know with whom you’re sharing a point of view.
Empathy is a difficult challenge because it means getting out of your head. The human condition is about existing very comfortably inside your own soul and not having to stretch. Historically, most of us didn’t move far from where we were planted. It takes a commitment to get out of where we settled.
The normal way of being for human beings — most human beings — is to settle. Like a box of cornflakes settles. We don’t settle into our comfort zone, because in truth the comfort zone isn’t that comfortable. We settle into our zone of resignation. And that’s the ‘normal’ way of being — as soon as we figure out Santa isn’t coming, we settle into waiting for rigor mortis as an alternative.
But results, any kinds of results at all, requires taking a stand, making a commitment, and being so willing to be uncomfortable in the pursuit of those results that the alternative is not an option. Most people don’t want to be that uncomfortable.
— David Gerrold, on his Patreon page, which you should REALLY join: https://www.patreon.com/DavidGerrold/posts
For many of us, this requires travel. It means meeting and interacting with people who are significantly different from us. When you learn that someone different from you can still be a nice person, with whom you enjoy spending time, ignorance is replaced by understanding. It takes time to undo what we have been taught by those who were afraid of differences.
I manage it by reading. I’ve traveled all over the world and all through space and time with my books. This is why it’s important when you’re writing to be authentic. It’s the difference between literature and propaganda. And we can argue about what constitutes literature later. My ideas about that are changing as I age.
The experience of being a part of any marginalized group is shared by all its members, although at different times and in different ways. At age 3, or 7, or 11, or perhaps 13 or so, you realize that you are somehow different from others. You may recognize the difference, but you still don’t know exactly what it is. You begin to see some people experiencing things you’re not, and you begin to understand you’re experiencing things they’re not. In my case, I suspect it was Autism. For others it’s their gender identity, their sexuality, their race, their gender, or anything else that means they aren’t like most people.
There are those who, when they recognize the core of the difference, go absolutely crazy. They become frustrated because they know they don’t fit, and they feel anger at those who try to liberate themselves while some are still trying their best to hide their differences. Many people are trying specifically not to allow anyone who is different to have any liberty at all. There are those who seem to want us all to be carbon copies of one another. Diversity seems to these folks to be a threat. It’s actually a strength of any society.
It’s easy to see the world as bleak because so many are marginalized, ignored, unrepresented, silenced, or straight out hated because they are different. I would point out, though, that we’ve made significant progress in the last 50 years.
Prior to the 1950s, gay people were simply entirely hidden from the public eye. In the 50s, we began to acknowledge the existence of gay people in our culture, but when they were included in stories, those characters usually killed themselves. By the 1960s, the gay characters in popular stories had moved from suicidal to living tragic lives. And then there was The Stonewall Rebellion. President Biden recently remarked on it.
In June 1969, a courageous group of Americans rose up to protest the violence and marginalization they faced in what became known as the Stonewall Uprising. Police had raided the Stonewall Inn — a gay bar located in New York City — and for the next six days they clashed with LGBTQI+ protestors, who bravely stood their ground. Their courage sparked a civil rights movement for the liberation of the LGBTQI+ community and changed our Nation forever.
There were many gay people who were involved with Martin Luther King’s civil rights movement, and by the 1970s, they were applying what they learned from Dr. King to their own struggle for liberty.
In the 1980s, AIDS hit. The focus shifted from defining the gay community to helping each other. The hospice movement was enhanced by lesbians who wanted to help those dying from AIDS. Hospices are common today. It’s interesting to understand their origins, isn’t it? When ignorance fades, understanding grows.
Next came the fight for custody in divorce cases. The women became very committed and lobbied using experts until it got to the point that being a lesbian was no longer enough to disqualify people from custody. This helped open the door for gay people to adopt children. People slowly began to accept that to be gay was acceptable. Most of the country began to recognize it just wasn’t an issue.
Falwell’s Moral Majority made a fatal mistake by putting the discussion of gay rights on the table. It became a common topic of conversation, and people began to learn more about what it is to be gay. The more people know, the less they have to fear.
Marriage Equality was first raised in 1992. By 2012, there were several states that recognized it. Marriage equality became nationwide in 2015. Bigots lost.
The moment for full marriage equality finally arrived on June 26, 2015, with the Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges. In a landmark 5-4 decision, marriage equality became the law of the land and granted same-sex couples in all 50 states the right to full, equal recognition under the law.
Because they know it’s a losing battle with gay people, bigots are now attacking Trans People and Drag Queens. They feel emboldened by their recent success at getting Roe V Wade overturned, allowing them once again to have control of what women can do with their bodies, so next up is gay marriage. One can only hope that our Supreme Court will continue to understand that Love is Love.
We are beginning now to recognize that everyone deserves civil rights. Pride Month isn’t only about gay identity anymore. It’s about personal liberation for everyone who feels oppressed by a culture that doesn’t understand them. Being gay isn’t the problem in stories today. It’s just taken for granted in the same way a character might have brown eyes instead of blue.
With the rise of science and psychiatry and human nature, religion is losing its power. The religious movement is fighting back, but it’s a losing battle. Same sex attraction is rooted in bonding. There are genetic links. The more caregivers there are for a family, the more likely that family will survive.
Right now, we’re dealing with a cult-like fanaticism. The difference between the 21st Century United States and the rise of the Nazis is that now we have the internet and a constitution that protects us. There has never been a successful theocracy that was good for the people.
There is still reason to be optimistic because tyrannies don’t last. They become so extreme that people finally withdraw their consent.
The Soviet Union had an attempted coup that collapsed without a shot being fired. America experienced its own attempted coup on January 6, 2021, and sadly, people died. Tyranny is one step too far for the people. Tyrannies are brought down because people won’t tolerate it.
The right-wing attempt to suspend the constitution may survive for a little while, but they will trigger massive protests. The MLK protests are the model. The system has militarized the police because they want a weapon to shut down the protests.
We’re on the threshold of it, but it’s hard to say how serious it will get. Shockingly enough, I’m hoping for a revolution without violence, but I have no crystal ball. Violence may occur because a group of billionaires in the 70s said they’ll never let the 60s happen again. Reagan was part of it. Bush was part of it. The rich wanted an economy different from the one FDR created. They wanted to have an economy that benefited only the wealthy.
Many LGBTQ people are frightened because they haven’t lived through it before. They have to learn how to fight back. They have to get to the streets. Freedom has to be rewon by every generation because someone will always want to remove it. People who ban books are never heroes. People who target minorities are never heroes.
It’s easy to be discouraged because in every generation there will be those who seek control by frightening the majority by focusing on some minority. It was Black people in the beginning of our country. We fought a Civil War over that issue. Women also suffered oppression. Susan B. Anthony and many other women began that battle. Then there were homosexuals to hate. The Stonewall Rebellion began that conflict. All those groups have fought and won battles to be treated with something resembling respect, at least by many of us. Their struggles haven’t ended, but they’re doing much better than they were a century ago, or even 50 years ago.
Today, it is transgender people and Drag Queens. They will inevitably win their battles, too, because tyrannies never last. They can’t. There is only so much oppression that society can tolerate before it turns on the oppressors. The oppressors will never stop trying. The rest of us will never stop resisting.
The sooner we recognize that all people are deserving of the same rights currently reserved only for the elites, the sooner we will have a world in which love is the norm, and hatred is considered an artifact from an ancient time. I hope I’ve moved us a molecule or two nearer to that world tonight. If you could spread some love, you’d move us just a little bit closer too. And I’d be grateful. I don’t know if I’ll live to see the better world we create, but I would certainly like to. We could use your help.
Pride is not a Sin anymore. It’s a cause for celebration of the battles we’ve won to help create a world in which There is no Them; we are all Us.
And yes… I love you.