Reflecting on Pride Philosophy and Movements in the #BlackLivesMatter Era

A little over two decades ago, some time after having taken some philosophy courses at Mt. Hood Community College, (from an instructor who referred to himself on handouts as Spade Cooley, for reasons which remain a mystery) I distilled some of what I’d learned from Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics into this statement: “Don’t be proud of who you are; be proud of what you do.” A variant upon this theme turned up in pop culture when Christian Bale’s Batman said, in Batman Begins, “It’s not who I am on the inside, but what I do that defines me.”

In the early 2000’s I found myself in a deep conversation with a new (at the time) friend of mine who happens to be gay. I spoke about my previously mentioned philosophical distillation and asked him how it might relate to the gay pride movement. I can’t recall his exact words, (and wish I could) but he countered my assertion that pride in an inherent property (in this case, being gay) didn’t make sense by noting, rather brilliantly, that pride movements develop out of persecution.

What this seems to boil down to (if you’ll forgive a distillation metaphor) is that taking pride in an inherent property makes sense when the purpose of feeling that pride is to elevate one’s self and the group one is in to a state of parity, both in terms of self-esteem and esteem in the broader community, with the privileged majority.

It will come as no surprise then, that #BlackLivesMatter may be easily understood as a (profoundly necessary) pride movement.

In a much more recent conversation, a different friend of mine asserted that the statement, “Black lives matter,” is inherently racist. I didn’t argue the point out of a desire to avoid our conversation becoming heated, but the wrongness of what my friend said is plain to me. Hari Kondabolu puts it most succinctly:

Or there’s this longer, more metaphorical explanation of what “Black lives matter” does and doesn’t mean.

Of course, there are full-on racists out there who will assert nonsense like #BlueLivesMatter and #WhiteLivesMatter. I think a false sense of persecution must be at least partly a driver for such vile absurdity.

When I reflect once more upon my original statement concerning pride, it occurs to me I thought of it largely in a personal context. I’ve never felt any pride over being white, male, heterosexual, American, or for any other inherent or inherited property of my being. It always struck me as silly. (Almost as silly as that shitpile of a song by Lee Greenwood, which is apparently achieving renewed popularity.) I’ve come over the years to recognize that when others express pride over related sorts of things, like Blackness, homosexuality, alternative gender identity, ethnicity, religious affiliation, etc., it’s not silly at all. It’s vital in the struggle for survival and equality in a nation whose privileged majority has little to be proud of in its ongoing failure to live up to the ideals we claim to hold dear.

I thought I might dedicate this post to Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, but I don’t think this post is the right way to honor their memories (or those of Tamir, Sandra, Michael, and a host of others). I would rather dedicate this post and other, better future efforts, to all the names I don’t know and hope never to see in the form of a hashtag. We can best honor the dead by working to achieve justice for the living.

Those Explosions In Gaza Are(n’t) Special Effects

It should come as a shock to no one (certainly not those who know me) that I’m a fan of movies based on comic books. The films set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe have been favorites of mine and I’m looking forward to Guardians of the Galaxy with such anticipation I can hardly contain myself.

But I don’t watch these movies without a certain sort of largely subconscious reservation. Consider (for two minutes and thirty seconds) this trailer for The Avengers

Lots of explosions, CGI, some acting, fight choreography, and more explosions; just what we expect from the sort of movie The Avengers is.

And then there’s reality.

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How I Came To Be Atheist

My prior post bears an additional bit of explanation, as the way in which I came to be atheist is essential in understanding why I think of atheism the way I do and why I cannot easily associate myself with New Atheism (despite the fact that I don’t entirely lack admiration for the scientists and philosophers who are participants in the movement).

Several months ago a friend of mine and I were discussing atheism and I asked him how he came to be atheist. His reply corresponds to what I imagine would be the case with most people who are among the “deconverted”. My friend was raised in a Mormon household and unlike his siblings, he didn’t take to Mormonism particularly well. As my friend passed through adolescence he increasingly questioned Mormon theology, eventually reading material on Mormonism authored by people outside that faith. That lead to his dropping Mormonism entirely, and when he extended his skepticism of Mormonism to other religions, he found the other religions readily accessible in Western society equally wanting when contrasted against an empirical approach to living in the world. He would eventually conclude he was atheist.

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Admission of Guilt: #CancelColbert, the Washington Redskins, and Poisonous Memory

I’ve been trying to keep notes on potential topics for posts and one of my notes reads “Twitterage: #CancelColbert”. My original intention was to write something very general about the whole brouhaha, and I’m sure I will write other posts under the Twitterage banner in the future. Today I won’t write about #CancelColbert itself, but rather use it as a platform from which to dive into memory. For those as don’t know, #CancelColbert is a Twitter hashtag campaign started by Suey Park (@suey_park on Twitter) in the wake of a contextless blurb tweeted (and subsequently deleted) by a Comedy Central-controlled account which was construed to be a racist utterance on the part of Stephen Colbert. (Colbert’s original satire from which the misfired tweet was derived had to do with Dan Snyder, owner of the Washington Redskins. This will be important later.) A Google search on the hashtag will yield and assortment of articles written about the controversy, with this post at The Raw Story offering a good primer.

While considering what I might write about #CancelColbert I remembered to employ a personal heuristic which may be stated as: “When considering the negative actions or qualities of others, look for the same negative features in yourself and temper your thoughts with this introspection.” Employment of this heuristic dredged up an old memory that doesn’t hold up well in retrospect.

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