May you live in interesting times.
This is not the ancient Chinese curse that most of us heard it described as, including RFK who used it in a speech he gave in Cape Town in 1966:
“There is a Chinese curse which says ‘May he live in interesting times.’ Like it or not, we live in interesting times.”
I’m sure any public opinion poll conducted at any moment of human history would reveal that we always think of the times we live in as “interesting”. How could we not?
Of course, as curses go, condemning an enemy to live in interesting times doesn’t sound so terrible. The i-word must be a euphemism for challenging or even perilous. We do live in such times. Interesting? Always. Challenging? Frequently. Perilous? Probably moreso than we know. (An extinction-size asteroid could be whizzing past the moon as I tap out this post. That would suck… though it would (briefly) elevate the name of this blog – The End – from mere snark to exquisite prophecy.)
What do you find interesting about these times? My answer is probably different from yours, or Chris Christie’s or that of anyone named Kardashian. Probably.
There’s a story playing out in the national news this week that strikes me as one of the most interesting signs of our times. Three days ago, one of the best college football players in the country, on his way to the NFL draft, revealed that he is gay. He had come out to his team, the Missouri Tigers, before the start of this last season, with total support from his coaches and teammates. And they had a great, winning season.
“I am an openly proud gay man,” said Michael Sam, two weeks before the NFL scouts meeting. Why? For years, NFL scouts have been asking potential recruits questions like “Do you have a girlfriend?” or “Are you married?” or “Do you like girls?” Mike Sam just continued his habit of being honest and comfortable in his own skin. And in the process, he sets himself up to become the first openly gay player in the National Football League.
You would think the world of sports got hit by that rogue asteroid. But the reaction – while tumultuous – has been overwhelmingly positive. Starting with the NFL, which put out this statement:
“We admire Michael Sam’s honesty and courage. Michael is a football player. Any player with ability and determination can succeed in the NFL. We look forward to welcoming and supporting Michael Sam in 2014.”
The chorus of support continued, including the Tweeter-in-Chief.
Of course, not everyone was full of cheer at Mike Sam’s coming out party. Sports Illustrated took a particularly cowardly route, giving “NFL executives” an anonymous platform for their negative comments. None worth repeating here.
Here’s one that is worth repeating. Jonathan Vilma, a linebacker with the New Orleans Saints shared his fears with NFL Network: “Imagine if he’s the guy next to me, and you know, I get dressed, naked, taking a shower, the whole nine, and it just so happens he looks at me, how am I supposed to respond?”
Seriously? Yeah. But this kind of reaction is instructive, because it so painfully reveals that people fear what they don’t understand. Ignorance is the root of all bigotry, all racism, all sexism, all xenophobia and all anti-gay hatred. I don’t mean ignorance as an intellectual deficit, but as a lack of experience. As every gay person who has ever come out knows, attitudes change when people come to understand that they know someone who is gay. “Gay is OK!” is the message, but the messenger carries the truth of it.
Here’s the most interesting part of these interesting times this week. While Missouri football-playing Mike Sam’s coming out was trending on Twitter, a wrestler at Ohio’s Kent State also got busy tweeting his opinion:
“I can’t even watch sportcenter today cause all there talking about is Marcus Smart or that fag from mizzou….”
The NFL welcomes Mike Sam with open arms. The President of the United States congratulates Mike Sam for “real sportsmanship”. And Sam Wheeler of the KSU Golden Flashes (I won’t even go there) wrestling squad is complaining about “that fag from mizzou”.
Kent State University wasted no time with this statement:
“We are aware of the insensitive tweets by one of our student athletes. On behalf of Kent State University, we consider these comments to be ignorant and not indicative of the beliefs held by our university community as a whole. This is an educational opportunity for all of our student-athletes.”
And then they put Mr Wheeler on indefinite suspension. Where this “student athlete” belongs. Given the grammar exhibited in his offensive tweet, young Sam W. should be hitting the books while he’s unable to hit the mats. And since the most outspoken homophobes are often of the self-hating variety, maybe a little soul searching is in order, too.
With the 50th anniversary of MLK’s I Have A Dream speech last summer, another quote that’s had a lot of play lately is the one about “the arc of the moral universe bends toward justice”. But it bends slowly. And as President Obama has remarked, “it doesn’t bend by itself”.
It has been ten years since Massachusetts recognized marriage equality. Marriage isn’t everything, but the recognition of these rights are tangential to everything. We have seen marriage equality progress, in fits and starts, over the past decade. Especially in the passion play of Prop 8 in California leading up to the Supreme Court ruling last summer neutering that and the so-called Defense of Marriage Act. Marriage equality is the law in nearly 20 states, with rulings pending in many more; and all marriages are equal in the eyes of the federal government. The bigoted Don’t Ask Don’t Tell military policy now seems like ancient history. The Employee Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) will pass as soon as we have ethical leadership in the House once more. And here we are, on the verge of an openly gay player in the NFL.
We do live in interesting times. And for those who don’t like it, here’s the curse I’ll put on you: May your times get ever more interesting.
That would make me happy.
Day 037 #100happydays