Will you be celebrating Pride Month?

And what is so rare as a day in June? / Then, if ever, come perfect days”. These are the opening lines of a famous poem by the mid-19th century poet James Russell Lowell. He was an American poet, obviously, not an Australian, or he wouldn’t have been so enthusiastic about June, when days tend to be bleak, chilly, and imperfect.

Lowell was immensely popular in his day, although I would trade his complete works for a single poem by Emily Dickinson. Schoolchildren memorised his treacly verse. He was derivative and trite, he was excruciatingly sentimental about cowslips and buttercups and “the flush of life Thrilling back over hills and valleys” and so on and on.

Styles of poetry have changed but sentimentality about June endures. Nowadays June has been transmogrified into Pride Month, a celebration of all that is LGBT. What is so queer as a day in June, Lowell might have written.

The essence of sentimentality is indulgence in one’s own feelings – feeling good about feeling good. And Pride Month offers abundant opportunities to wallow in this – parades, festivals, parties, face-painting, sales, media celebrations, rainbow-themed food, and more. It’s a celebration of pride in one’s own identity, a celebration of self, a month in which every day is my birthday.

Sentimentality has its place – that’s why we celebrate birthdays once a year. But it’s an individual feeling, not a social feeling.

What we need more than cossetting our own egos is fidelity to our commitments to others.

For me, this is the attraction of nominating June as Fidelity Month. Professor Robert P. George, Director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University, launched this initiative last year and it deserves to be better known.

He explains on his website: “By the authority vested in me by absolutely no one, I have declared June to be ‘Fidelity Month’—a month dedicated to the importance of fidelity to God, spouses and families, and our country and communities.”

Fidelity Month was not conceived as an open challenge to Pride Month, but the contrast is hard to miss. Fidelity grows from a life which aspires to defend values higher than the self. Pride is about the self and nothing but the self.  


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Professor George launched Fidelity Month on a webinar last year with seven other stellar participants. Yuval Levin, a journalist and political scientist, summed up its meaning: “In a time when people tend to think about freedom only in terms of choice, we’re proposing a way here to think about freedom in terms of obligation and commitment.”

It's a great message.

Too often today commitment is depicted as an enemy of freedom. People protest that commitments to God, country, community, and family restrict and imprison us. They assume that freedom is living without obligations so that they can be themselves.

A truer view of freedom is that we are free for a purpose and we will only be fulfilled if we serve that purpose. A father’s freedom, for instance, isn’t fettered by having to care for his children; he discovers the perfection of his freedom in loving and protecting them.

Levin, who is Jewish, commented that June is an ideal time for celebrating fidelity, as it coincides with the month of Sivan in the Jewish calendar. In Sivan, the Book of Ruth is read – one of the most touching examples of fidelity in world literature. Ruth, a Moabite, tells her Hebrew mother-in-law Naomi: “do not press me to go back and leave thee. I mean to go where thou goest, and dwell where thou dwellest; thy people shall be my people, thy God my God; whatever earth closes over thee when thou diest shall be my place of death and burial.”

Ruth’s unsentimental promise embodies fidelity; she will pour her life into serving a person, a community, and a God. It expresses determination, commitment, and love. Not pride.

In 2024 American are sailing through rough seas – a bitter election campaign, international challenges, rancorous political divisions, antagonism over basic values … Professor George believes that there has been “a precipitous decline in our fellow Americans’ belief in the importance of such values as patriotism, religion, family, and community—the values that used to unite Americans despite our many differences.”

Pride Month will fix none of these; Fidelity Month could. We should give it a chance. 

What do you think of the idea of promoting Fidelity Month? Tell us in the comments below. 

Michael Cook is editor of Mercator

Image credit: Professor Robert P. George / Wikimedia 


Showing 9 reactions

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  • David Page
    commented 2024-06-02 09:44:37 +1000
    Mrs Cracker, lots of people were abolitionists. The house owned by my Unitarian church had a secret cellar for runaway slaves. The Unitarians were very much involved in the Underground Railroad. He was a Massachusetts Lowell. Of course he was an abolitionist. But being a good person doesn’t automatically make one a good poet. But I’ll leave you with this; “And this is good old Boston, The home of the bean and the cod, Where the Lowells talk only to Cabots, And the Cabots talk only to God.”
  • mrscracker
    James Russell Lowell was also an abolitionist and was related to a later American poet, Robert Lowell.
  • Michael Cook
    commented 2024-06-01 16:58:21 +1000
    There is no shame in not having heard of James Russell Lowell but he has an extraordinarily long Wikipedia entry with 146 footnotes. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Russell_Lowell
  • Steven Meyer
    commented 2024-06-01 09:08:21 +1000
    I’ve never heard of James Lowell and I’m not going to be celebrating “Pride Month.”

    Actually I didn’t even know this was supposed to be “Pride Month”.

    But here’s the thing.

    If someone wants to celebrate “Pride Month” they’re welcome. It doesn’t upset me.

    It’s none of my business how other people choose to spend June.
  • David Page
    commented 2024-06-01 04:52:07 +1000
    James Russell Lowell was famous? I never heard of him. Of course I know of the family. I looked at a couple of Lowell’s poems and was unimpressed. I’m not sure why he is mentioned here. Now Emily Dickinson, however, is my favorite poet.

    My suggestion to you, Michael, is that you should celebrate June however you like. I shall do the same. It isn’t an either or situation. It is a big world. There is plenty of room for celebrating June in more ways than one. Go for it.

    Emily Dickinson, as I said, is my favorite poet. I have used one of her poems in a remembrance for a friend, when his suffering was over (Because I could not stop for death he kindly stopped for me). Reading her poetry, sometimes, can be like reading by flashes of lightning. But when she is good she excels. I have also read as much of her prose as survived. Most was destroyed by her family. Given what I have been able to read I’m not sure which June she would celebrate. Are you?
  • Claudia Minnich
    commented 2024-06-01 02:01:38 +1000
    Fidelity Month——Love it! What a great concept and something that is greatly needed in society today. We should celebrate all that is good. United we stand, divided we fall. We need to be reminded that sin is everywhere—-it’s hard to be human.
  • mrscracker
    June is the month of The Sacred Heart of Jesus & where I live folks are hanging out Sacred Heart flags & banners. “Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make my heart like unto thine.”
    Humility is the opposite of pride.
  • Patrick Obrien
    commented 2024-05-31 21:29:15 +1000
    If you are proud of your serious sins, they can’t be forgiven.
  • Michael Cook
    published this page in The Latest 2024-05-31 17:44:21 +1000