a href=http://berkeleybeacon.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/Ben.jpgimg class=size-full wp-image-3813576 alignleft title=Ben src=http://berkeleybeacon.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/Ben.jpg alt= width=242 height=300 //a
strongBen Kling, Beacon Columnist/strong
This time last year, Emerson students raised rainbow flags, strapped on feathery angel wings, and rallied to a chant of “Love is Louder” in front of the Little Building to protest the homophobic Westboro Baptist Church, whose members were slated to demonstrate near campus. The aim was to promote LGBTQ acceptance, and it was, broadly, successful — to the extent that preaching to a choir can be called a success.
During the planning and execution of the rally, I was settling into life at Kasteel Well, so my experience of it was entirely vicarious. That said, my exposure to the event was by no means limited. For at least a month afterward, Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook were wallpapered with post after post about the “Love is Louder” rally — mostly the same article, posted on the MTV Newsroom, and occasionally a YouTube video.
This phenomenon, in and of itself, is nothing to be irritated by. In fact, it’s one of the greatest things about this school. Yes, it can become tiresome reading the same topical content reworded endlessly in a stream down your social media feeds, but even the most cynical among us appreciates the unity in the collective groan that spreads when eCommon goes down, or during yet another evacuation caused by the trigger-happy smoke detectors in the Little Building. The mere fact that you’re part of the Emerson community includes you — connects you.
But as I watched the fixation of the week spread across every social networking outlet, I noticed a schism within the ubiquitous coverage, a noticeable difference in intentions. Roughly half of the people posting about the rally appended their links with statements like “so proud to have been a part of this!” or “so happy to be a member of this community!” while the other half seemed intent on communicating that “omg my school is so much better than yours” and that “this is why your school sucks” and that “yeah, we’re kind of a big deal.”
Let me make this unquestionably clear, group two: your attitude is what sucks.
The two schools of thought illustrate the distinction between the two connotations of the word “pride.” There’s pride, as in a pride parade and school pride and Pride Rock (although I think that’s actually just where Simba lived). The members of group one, who are grateful to be in an environment that celebrates inclusion, open-mindedness, and, I have to say it, love, demonstrate this kind of pride.
[caption id=attachment_381357 align=aligncenter width=200 caption=A year ago Emerson students marched in opposition to a planned protest by Westboro Church and in favor of LGBTQ rights. Gabe Souza/Beacon Archive]a href=http://berkeleybeacon.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/Gabe_Counterprotest.jpgimg class=size-full wp-image-3813577 title=Gabe_Counterprotest src=http://berkeleybeacon.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/Gabe_Counterprotest.jpg alt= width=200 height=180 //a[/caption]
Then there’s what I refer to as “capital P Pride.” Pride as in hubris and arrogance. As in Seven Deadly Sins and Kevin-Spacey-in-emSe7en/em Pride. The members of group two, who treat open-mindedness like a brand, who treat activism like bullying and treat progressiveness like a contest — a race to see who can run leftward first and more quickly than everyone else — they exhibit capital P Pride. They wear their LGBTQ acceptance like a rainbow Livestrong bracelet. What they value isn’t the inclusivity of their community, but rather the exclusivity — the fact that being a member sets them apart.
This is why I cringe when I hear people bemoaning the fact that Emerson has dropped two places on The Princeton Review’s most LGBTQ-friendly campuses list. I don’t think anyone believes that Emerson has become less gay-friendly in the past year — other schools have simply become more gay-friendly. And isn’t that a wonderful thing? The world is changing, the cause is spreading, and the community is becoming more inclusive. That’s what we want. That’s what we’re fighting for. The focus shouldn’t be on “winning,” by beating out NYU ( number 1 on this year’s list): It should be on catching up.
Wouldn’t the ideal situation be for every campus in the nation to be tied for first? Of course it would, but people are upset because we’re no longer in first place, and gay-friendliness is part of our identity as a school. That indignation is a result of capital P Pride, and it’s something we have to fight against.
We have to make sure we’re not doing the right things for the wrong reasons.
I come from a small, all-American town where the homecoming football game is a big deal. Before the game, there’s always a pep rally. Everyone in town heads to the field to cheer and hold up “Go Tigers” signs. These pep rallies are (like “Love is Louder”) essentially preaching to the choir, but they do (like “Love is Louder”) serve a purpose: They’re a venue for people to connect under a common banner and celebrate their unity. It’s not really about football at all.
But LGBTQ acceptance is different. The rally isn’t the most important part. We can congregate and celebrate, demonstrate our strength and our numbers, but we have to remember that’s not all there is to it. One of the major pitfalls of activism is the belief that the pep rally is the work. But in reality, lobbying is the work. Voting is the work. Stepping off of your home turf is the work.
“Love is Louder” was a pep rally, and that’s okay. We held up our “Go Lions” signs and we roared to see how loud we could be. Pretty loud, as it turns out. We lived up to our status as most LGBTQ-friendly college that year. But some of us — not all, but some — need to remember that it’s not a competition, and that responding to the WBC’s message of “God Hates Fags” with “We Hate You” or even “We’re Better Than You” is not what the rally was about. To those people who need reminding, this cause is not about your identity, it’s about human rights.
emBen Kling is a junior writing for film and television major and a Beacon columnist. He can be followed on Twitter @benkling./em