Pride can be a good thing and it can be a bad thing. When used to combat depression and low self esteem, pride in one’s accomplishments can be pivotal in banishing the specter of hopelessness. But on the other hand, when pride is used as a fence or a barrier to divide people and keep them separate it can become perhaps the most dangerous and deadly weapon our race has ever conceived.

Perhaps one of the most embarrassing and repugnant uses of the word “pride” in modern American culture is the term “Aryan Pride.” A white supremacist claims merit in their race and wears their ethnicity like a badge of honor. In fact they did nothing personally to earn it; their race was dictated to them by the genetics of their parentage. A person does not control who contributes to their gene pool. Their ancestry is handed to them on a great roulette wheel. Neither shame nor pride is appropriate for the result of the spin. And yet those that end up with a different spin, a different result, become targets. The white supremacist’s pride is used as a barrier of bigotry and hatred, separating those on their side from those that are not.

Cited as the cause of Lucifer’s fall from Grace, Pride is considered the most egregious of the Seven Deadly Sins. Pride allows people to whimsically and arbitrarily create barriers that divide, isolate, and control. These wooden fences are frequently a source of tension and can, with the gentle kiss of a match, become the source of fire and violence.

It is not just a minority of hate groups that flock to the banners on those fences. Nearly everyone does it, as if it is a human genetic predisposition. For instance fanatics on both sides of a sporting event, clinging to the banners of their teams, can easily turn to violence. Perhaps the most prevalent and dangerous banner is the banner of patriotism.

Oscar Wilde said that “patriotism is the virtue of the vicious.” Perhaps he was thinking of the hatred that is created when a national barrier arbitrarily separates people. Like the Aryan supremacist before, we have groups of people that espouse their own nations and wear their flags like a badge of honor when, most likely, their nationality is a simple result of the longitude and latitude at which they were born. Yet their patience and tolerance for someone born outside of their border is as short as it is unforgiving.

Be it the white robe and hood of the Klan or my own country’s flag, what benefit do these banners serve¬†except to separate us from our own fellow human beings? Wouldn’t it be worth it to take down these banner laden barriers in order to reunite into a human race? Our problems would become their problems, and their problems would become our problems, and for the first time we would be a whole people. Isn’t that worth burning down the banners, star spangled or otherwise?