Most of This Entry Is Not by Me

A debate has arisen on the WELL (yeah, yeah, stop me if you’ve heard this one) about “pride”, and whether it is sensible to be proud of being gay, or black, or white, or a woman, or any other trait that one was born with; or if one should only feel pride at the things one has actually done in one’s life.

I probably set it off. Someone was saying that he’d gotten pounced on by a lot of people on Facebook or some such place, because some other person had said that he was proud of being white, and he (the guy on the WELL) had criticized him. So of course a bunch of other people on the WELL agreed with him that it was ridiculous to be proud of being white. No one had stepped up with a contrary opinion, so I figured I’d be the first.

I have no problem at all with people being proud of who they are, whoever they are. Only when they actually try to impose second-class status on others do they cross my line.

Whites have many things to be proud of. We invented calculus, opera, and the light bulb.

Everybody else who has commented in this thread, both before and since, has been on the other side, agreeing that pride in your culture or the traits you were born with is silly or dangerous or misguided or whatever, but in any case clearly Not A Good Thing.

So I just wrote this over lunch break:

Jon says I should be proud of my writing skills, and indeed I am; however, I would guess that about 98% of what I have written in my life, I would never have written were I not gay. If those things I have written are precious, then equally so is everything that was necessary for them to be written.

Furthermore, how many of those things would I have written were I born into poverty in a third-world country? Or born 5000 years ago, or 100,000 years ago? Or born as a dog? Or as an amoeba? How can I honestly and with integrity be proud of what I have written if that pride depends on the pretense that the traits I was born with had nothing to do with it?

The fact is that anywhere I have gone in my life, I have managed to get to only because the universe spat me into existence nearly the whole way there. I just crawled a little ways further, that’s all. My personal accomplishments are a very tiny part of an organism or machine or whatever inadequate metaphor I want to pin to it, that is vast beyond my powers of comprehension. Anything I have done, this something did nearly all the work and I did just a very little. So to be proud of anything I have accomplished and not also to be proud of being part of that something, and proud that that something happened to bring me into existence at the very time and place and in the very condition that made it possible for me to accomplish those things — that would seem like real egotism to me.

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