American Pride

by Bryan

Yesterday I finished a lunch date at Union Square and heard cheering and whistles a block away. I headed toward Fifth Avenue, mistakenly thinking someone was projection-screening the Argentina/Mexico game. (What? It could happen.) I only had to go a few feet before I realized the error of my ways: it was the Gay Pride Parade. I’ve never seen it in person, so I walked over to take a look. It was more or less as I imagined it: part political rally, part clothing optional dance party, good feeling all around. I couldn’t put it better than my friend Katie M. had the night before in a Facebook message:

Katherine M. is proud of the brave souls in this very bar who decided, 41 years ago, that they had had enough. Hopefully I can raise a glass next year to the end of DADT and more fairness in marriage laws.

The one criticism I had heard about the parade was that, in its occasional overwhelming flamboyance, it detracted from the gay rights struggle. My reply to that is onefold: Horseshit. If you were oppressed for the entirely of human history, you’d probably celebrate the ability to just live as you are pretty vigorously at least once per year. And, with the political action messages sprinkled between the discoteque floats, it certainly bore more resemblance to the fight than, say, Christmas at my house ever did to the birth of Jesus.

Not to get all Michelle Obama on you, but I was proud of my country, and for the second time in less than 24 hours.

The day before, I had eased into a popular sports bar at 1 p.m. for the U.S.A/Ghana game. It was surprisingly empty, but not for long. Before the bottom of the hour, the bar was Breathing Room Only, and this was 60 minutes before kickoff. Not quite Williamsburg, this was still Hipstamatic Brooklyn—which, to most of the country, is a year-long Gay Pride Parade—and the only thing you could see was red, white and blue. (And maybe a TV, if you were lucky.)

By now you probably know how the game went. The U.S. fell behind, then evened it, then lost in extra time. The second Ghana goal popped the atmosphere in the bar like a packing bubble which not even the lone vuvuzela player could inflate. I slunk home in disbelief, as much that the U.S. National Team had gotten me to the point where I could care about them as much as I did as they wrenching manner in which they lost.

The reason the loss was so bad this year, as opposed to years past, is that I was proud of this team. This team was good, without really having any of the world’s best players. They were a sports team of that idealized, not-often-realized ilk: the scrappy underdogs with a legitimate chance to win it all. I don’t know how we did it, but we did, and even if it makes no real sense, it makes me proud of my country.

I wish they had won, because I didn’t want to let go of the dream of them winning it, of summoning whatever courage it takes to stare down their bigger, faster enemies and take them out as a team. Sports courage, however, does not necessarily involve real courage. Both Saturday and Sunday were days to be proud of America, without forgetting the real work that’s left to be done.

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As proof I have World Cup on the brain, here is a doodle I did during a long telephone conversation on Thursday. There’s a reason I use words to communicate rather than pictures. No idea where the skateboard came from:

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