The Gaygrocer Flag

June is Pride Month, which means that we’ll soon be inundated with some version of what I’ve started to call the gaygrocer flag.

Why ‘gaygrocer’? I‘m glad you asked.

In just a couple of days, look at your social feeds or your friend’s profile pictures or at the storefronts downtown. Have you ever seen so many different people and businesses agree on one thing? You won’t see that many American flags on the Fourth of July. But the thing is, I’m not convinced that they all agree with it, or even that they’ve given much thought to it. Some are true believers, sure, but for many (most?) it’s just the cost of doing business — like Havel’s greengrocer.

Václav Havel wrote about a greengrocer in communist Czechoslovakia who hung a sign in his window saying “Workers of the world, unite!” The greengrocer didn’t believe it — in fact, he very much disagreed with it. But he knew that the sign was the cost of doing business; if he didn’t put it up, things would start to get… well, uncomfortable. It’s not what he wants to say, or even what his customers want to hear; he’s only signaling to the right people that he’s on the right side.

Here are some relevant excerpts from Havel:

“Why does he do it? What is he trying to communicate to the world? Is he genuinely enthusiastic about the idea of unity among the workers of the world? Is his enthusiasm so great that he feels an irrepressible impulse to acquaint the public with his ideals? Has he really given more than a moment’s thought to how such a unification might occur and what it would mean?

“I think it can safely be assumed that the overwhelming majority of shopkeepers never think about the slogans they put in their windows, nor do they use them to express their real opinions… The slogan is really a sign, and as such it contains a subliminal but very definite message. Verbally, it might be expressed this way: ‘I, the greengrocer XY, live here and I know what I must do. I behave in the manner expected of me. I can be depended upon and am beyond reproach. I am obedient and therefore I have the right to be left in peace… ’

“The greengrocer declares his loyalty (and he can do no other if his declaration is to be accepted) in the only way the regime is capable of hearing; that is, by accepting the prescribed ritual, by accepting appearance as reality, by accepting the given rules of the game… The greengrocer had to put the slogan in his window, therefore, not in the hope that someone might read it or be persuaded by it, but to contribute, along with thousands of other slogans, to the panorama, that everyone is very much aware of. This panorama, of course, has a subliminal meaning as well: it reminds people where they are living and what is expected of them. It tells them what everyone else is doing, and indicates to them what they must do as well, if they don’t want to be excluded, to fall into isolation, alienate themselves from society, break the rules of the game, and risk the loss of their peace and tranquility and security… ”

It’s the exact same way with the Pride flags in June. The flags don’t say, “I agree with the regnant progressive gender and sexual ideology,” so much as, “I am obedient and therefore I have the right to be left in peace.” (FWIW, I think it’s much the same thing with BLM, “Hate has no home,” and “We believe” signs.)

But what happens if the greengrocer takes the sign out of his window? What if the gaygrocer simply refuses to fly the flag?

Here’s Havel again:

“In this revolt the greengrocer steps out of living within the lie. He rejects the ritual and breaks the rules of the game. He discovers once more his suppressed identity and dignity. He gives his freedom a concrete significance. His revolt is an attempt to live within the truth… By breaking the rules of the game, he has disrupted the game as such. He has exposed it as a mere game. He has shattered the world of appearances, the fundamental pillar of the system. He has upset the power structure by tearing apart what holds it together. He has demonstrated that living a lie is living a lie. He has broken through the exalted facade of the system and exposed the real, base foundation of power. He has said that the emperor is naked. And because the emperor is in fact naked, something extremely dangerous has happened: by his action, the greengrocer has addressed the world. He has enabled everyone to peer behind the curtain. He has shown everyone that it is possible to live within the truth. Living within the lie can constitute the system only if it is universal.”

So, all that to say: If you really believe in progressive gender and sexual ideology, by all means, fly the gaynbow flag with pride. But if you don’t actually believe it — if you’re simply doing it to demonstrate your right to be left in peace, if you’re just playing the game, if you’re living the lie — well, then simply refuse to fly the flag.

Live not by lies.

(Excerpts from

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