Sunday, May 11, 2014

That Arc just just bent a little bit farther...

'The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.' - Martin Luther King, Jr.

The past twenty four hours have been quite remarkable. First of all, we have the National Football League in the United States drafting a very talented college player from Missouri named Michael Sam.

Sam had a very successful college football career. As a senior in 2013, Sam recorded 11.5 quarterback sacks and 19 tackles for a loss. He led his college athletic conference, the SEC,  in both categories, and tied Missouri's single-season record for sacks. After the season, Sam was named the South Eastern Conference's Co-Defensive Player of the Year.

Michael Sam was recently drafted to play for the NFL's St Louis Rams, not a big surprise right? So what is so remarkable about it? Well I'll let the video of the moment speak for itself.

The NFL was seen as a fortress of homophobia where being Gay was the ultimate barrier to playing at the professional level, that NFL just drafted its first openly Gay player.

I think the front page of the Huffington Post says it all..

Yet the arc of the moral universe wasn't quite finished bending this week. Down in the heart of the American "Bible Belt",  more specifically, in the State of Arkansas.

The "bible belt"  is an informal term for a region in the south-eastern and south-central United States in which socially conservative evangelical Protestantism is a significant part of the culture and Christian church attendance across the denominations is generally higher than the nation's average.

The Bible Belt consists of much of the Southern United States.  It is  personified  by  the social climate in states like  Texas,  Mississippi and  Arkansas.  In the Bible Belt, it's common to see bumper stickers that claim One Man + One Woman = Marriage, church billboards that command one to "Get right with Jesus," letters to the editor comparing gay marriage to marrying one's dog, and nightly news about homophobic attacks from "Pro Family" groups.

Yet this past week,  the State of Arkansas joined the list of  American states  that have marriage equality  for  their  LGBT citizens.

And last but not least, we have that bastion of camp and pop-music cheese that is the Eurovision Song Contest. The finals for this year,  held last night in Copenhagen, Denmark, took place in the shadow of a growing divide between Western and Eastern Europe over the issue of LGBT Rights.

A poll conducted by the French Institute of Public Opinion (IFOP) found majorities in several Western European countries in favor of marriage and adoption rights for same-sex couples, with those in the Netherlands (85%), Germany (74%), Belgium and Spain (71% each) expressing the most support. In Scotland, the percentage of people who favor same-sex marriage has increased from 41% in 2002 t0 61% in 2010,

While in Eastern Europe we have seen the  opposite trend. With  Croatia  and  most notably, Russia, passing  sweeping laws targeting  Gays and Lesbians for discrimination.   

For those unfamiliar with the Eurovision Song Contest all you need to know is , the only thing Gayer than Eurovision is... okay,  I really can't think of anything  that is gayer than Eurovision.  Maybe  the Tony Awards, but only if Neil Patrick Harris is hosting.  Anyway, you get the picture.  

So  while the contest is  wildly popular  in Eastern Europe,  its  inherent tolerance of  Gays is not.  So much so, that protesters in Armenia and Belarus created petitions asking their national broadcasters to edit a gay contestant from Austria, out of the live broadcast, though the European Broadcasting Union wouldn't allow that.   

The contestant in question, is an Austrian Drag Queen named  Conchita Wurst.    So in what is being seen as a collective European  rebuke to  Russia and its  rabidly homophobic "macho man" President, Vladimir Putin,  guess who won Eurovision 2014?  

All in all, this past week was not a good one for homophobia. The arc of the moral universe just got a whole lot closer to justice. As much as I have enjoyed these news stories, it did make think of those people I know for whom the past week was seen as bad news rather than good.

There are friends you lose when decide to live outside the prison of the "the closet". It is regrettable, but it happens. I found myself thinking of one of those "lost friends"  this past week. Someone who after our  being friends for a quarter of a century, upon finding out the love of my life was a guy named Eric, abruptly ended that  friendship without a word. 

So in light of this past week I wonder  what my old friend  thinks of the NFL drafting Michael Sam.   Knowing for the past few months that Sam was a Gay man, did he root for or against his Alma Mater's football team, at the University of Missouri? Will he root for or against the St. Louis Rams? 

Does the courage of his anti-gay convictions extend to  all aspects of his life, including football,  or just  to me?    The likelihood is that  I will never find out. Yet part of me hopes this past week has given him, and others who have the same fears and misconceptions he holds,  something to think about.   Seattle based writer and activist  Dan Savage sums up the contradiction  many people with anti-gay fears and  phobias  are  perhaps  struggling with after this week....

 Congratulations Michael and Conchtia.  You are helping that Arc of the Moral Universe to continue to bend towards justice.  With your help,   it is my hope that eventually  everyone, lost friends included, will come long for the celebration.

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