Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Of Intolerance and Bravery

In the event that you live under a rock, a monumental and momentous event occurred a few days ago: an NBA player announced he was gay. Not being a die hard NBA fan, I had never heard of Jason Collins before two days ago, as I'm sure few did. He is a 34 year old free agent that has played for 6 different teams and is currently unsigned. Basically, he's a mediocre player who's playing days may have come to an end. Now I don't mean to treat his accomplishments lightly; anybody who plays professional sports is in a very low percentage of a very talented group. I just wish to paint the picture as adequately as I can. In over 700 games, he averaged 3 points and 3 rebounds a game. He was no superstar, to which everyone can agree.

Yet despite his obscurity as an athlete, once he announced that he was gay, he became instantly famous. His name is in every newspaper (or more likely nowadays, website), he's being talked about on all the news channels, and the social media world is exploding with his story. As the first professional athlete from the "Big 4" (football, baseball, hockey, and basketball) to announce he's gay, he is being hailed as a hero. Some are comparing him to Jackie Robinson. He even got a phone call from the president, who is proud of him. He is the new American hero; cited for his bravery, courage, and personal strength.

I'm certainly not going to denigrate Mr. Collins. I don't know the man and so won't speak about his personal character. By all accounts, he's a nice guy. And I would speak out against any vile or negative remarks made about him if that were poured upon him. But just as he doesn't deserve insults, he also doesn't deserve this effusive praise being heaped upon him. I don't know his personal reasons for saying he's gay, but I do know that he has become an instant superstar. He's probably received a few book deals by now, he's been invited for countless interviews, and he is being raised upon a pedestal. Was Jackie Robinson given that? Jackie Robinson was personally and publicly reviled; he received death threats in every town he played in. He was given hatred. Jason Collins is receiving very little, if any, of that. Does it take courage to become a public hero? Or to receive praise and compliments? How brave does one have to be to announce that they are gay in a society that openly approves and applauds the gay lifestyle? I doubt Mr. Collins was unaware of the fame his announcement would bring him, just as Jackie Robinson was aware of the infamy his decision would bring him. And predictably, any who refuse to applaud Mr. Collins' choice of bedmates are being verbally butchered as intolerant bigots. Chris Broussard may lose his job over it.

Yet there is another American, who this very day sits alone in an Iranian prison cell, possibly suffering from internal bleeding due to severe beatings he has gotten from the guards, simply because he refuses to denounce his Christian faith. Saeed Abedini is very far from his wife and children, treated worse than any animal, because of his religious beliefs and for no other reason. This man, an American citizen, rotting in solitary confinement because of his God given right. You see, when the U.S. Constitution was written, the Founding Fathers said the rights protected by it are God given. Which means that all people are given them...not just Americans. Other countries may not choose to recognize those rights, but all people are given them by God Himself. And so today, as Jason Collins is treated like a hero and his detractors villified as intolerant, Saeed Abedini is being tortured to death because he refuses to give up his God given right. And as President Obama is making speeches about and phone calls to Jason Collins, he is doing nothing for Saeed Abedini. So I ask you, what takes more bravery? Where does the true intolerance lie? Is it with the man praised for an announcement, or for the man dying for his faith with little fanfare far away from his home? Today, who is the real hero?

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