The final canto of Dante’s Inferno begins with a chilling line: “Vexilla regis prodeunt inferni”—that is, “the banners of the King of Hell advance.” The Latin phrase is adapted from the opening lines of a hymn to the True Cross. The meaning of the original is twisted, however, by that final word, “of Hell,” which turns the pious words of the hymn into a horrible demonic parody—one which is, nevertheless, well-suited to the grim scene the poet describes.
Dante had to descend to the very depths of Hell to behold its infernal banners. In the summer months, by contrast, Canadians can hardly escape the ubiquitous insignia of Pride – with a capital P. The rainbow flag now needs to be raised everywhere: stickers, billboards, and pennants festoon government buildings, public institutions, and a host of other establishments, from Catholic schools to coffee shops to everything in between. The rainbow, moreover, needs, not only to be displayed, but venerated, with any perceived reservation becoming the basis for investigation and any criticism cause for termination or persecution.
In such an oppressive milieu, there is some solace to be found in the backlash against the most extreme instances of agenda-driven corporate virtue signaling. The multi-billion-dollar losses suffered by Bud Light and Target, in the wake of their appalling partnerships and products, prove that, at least in the United States, socially conservative customers have the means to register their displeasure at the ever-encroaching perversions which are publicly embraced in the name of “Pride.”
In a summer darkened by the repressive rainbow’s constant shadow, these examples were welcome bright spots. Even so, they reveal two troubling truths. The first is the sheer fact that profit-maximizing corporations were willing to risk their bottom line to obey to the cultural imperative of Pride’s mandatory celebration. Even more troubling, however, is the collapse, which these corporate campaigns signal, of any distance between companies, institutions, and governmental agencies. Indeed, the commercial, the cultural, and the political have been blended into a troubling, undifferentiated arena of enforced emotion. Under the (quite literal) banner of Pride, we are witnessing the emergence of a global movement that holds sway over every sector of society. The specific policies of the state, the radical agendas of activists, the vocal support of cultural figures, and wide-ranging corporate campaigns of acceptance and celebration—all of these elements have combined to produce something far greater than the sum of its parts.
For a long time, the gay pride flag seemed like a trivial symbol. The contrast that it invited with the flags of nation states was obvious and stark; the rainbow seemed like a harmless parody of the longstanding symbols of countries with borders and armies and longstanding histories. But, in much the same way that entities like Google, Amazon, and Facebook now not only rival nation states in terms of their sheer power but also, in many ways, blend with them through various partnerships, the difference between national entities and the phenomenon of Global Pride becomes less obvious with every passing year. In the United States, the CIA now updates its social media with rainbow colours and the various branches of its civilian-controlled military make identical gestures of deference and reverence. In fact, the “Progress Pride” flag, with its hard, aggressive, and angular colors and shapes, was draped length-wise on the front of the White House itself, with Old Glory flanking it on (and thus relegated to) the left and the right.
But Pride is not just assuming an international, global dimension; it is also acquiring an unmistakably imperial quality as well. As Global Pride becomes a geopolitical phenomenon, all the issues associated with it are increasingly conflated with the cultural values of Western counties like Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Even if the most extreme expressions of social liberalism haven’t yet supplanted all of our other commitments and ideals, they certainly take—as the telling phrase has it—pride of place.
The ultimate consequences of this elevation of extreme social liberalism and its entanglement within the foreign policies of Western democracies are difficult to discern. Countries like Canada already exert diplomatic pressure on African states which have domestic policies regarding the legal recognition of same-sex partnership deemed unacceptable to Western sensibilities. UN treaties recognizing the rights to, say, same-sex “marriage” or gender transition could easily become the means by which foreign aid and access to international monetary funds are drastically limited, with dissenting countries excluded from the wealth and support of the West. In effect, Global Pride could become the basis for sanctions on the Third World, and Africa could be punished for its adherence to traditional mores.
Less clear is the effect that Global Pride will have on any conflict with China and Russia. In the 1980s, the Free World emerged victorious from the Cold War by virtue of its values: its economic power, its cultural cohesion, and, above all, its moral clarity. Even though China’s fate is all-but guaranteed by the inexorable consequences of its one-child policy, the 21st-century iteration of a communist great power could easily conquer the world before it succumbs to its own inevitable economic and demographic contradictions. Russia, for its part, has used the West’s adoption of libertinism to portray its adversaries as decadent imperialist warmongers, radicals who seek to impose their vision on sovereign countries in a global quest to eradicate traditional morality.
Like all caricatures, this image of the West is only painful—and powerful—to the degree that it is accurate. And, sadly, this account hits far too close to home. If the West does not wish to have ex-KGB thugs cynically exploit its preposterous appearance on the world stage to their own end, it should divest itself of Global Pride’s extreme agenda. But such a conversion does not seem in the offing: indeed, as the protection of “sexual minorities” becomes more entrenched, the West seems intent on using its historical status as victim as the basis for persecution of recalcitrant cultures. And so, in the name of “eradicating bullying,” punishing policies are enacted. It is only a matter of time until the ideology of Global Pride, fully divorced from the biological and phenomenological realities of sexual difference, takes the form of a full-fledged religion—and its state-enforced fictions become the basis for a new and ferocious religious persecution. When it does, those who affirm the basic truths about the human person will become the enemies of the state. And yet, none of these things need be the cause of concern, alarm, or even surprise. Indeed, “when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Lk 21:28).