musings on music, travel, books, and life from Southeast Asia

The big news in the world of sports today was the coming out announcement by professional basketball player Jason Collins. He is the first “active” male player (as opposed to someone that retired and later announced that they were gay) in US professional sports to proclaim their homosexuality.

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Collins should be congratulated for taking this bold step. I hope this is only the beginning and it will embolden many other gay athletes to make similar announcements. Actually, real progress will be made when such proclamations aren’t even necessary, and cause nothing more than a shrug of the shoulders. Of course, a lot of the value of having announced that he’s gay will be negated if Collins never plays in an NBA game again. At the age of 34, Collins is a veteran backup, a role player who plays less than 10 minutes per game, nearing the end of his playing career. He’s not a star, he’s not even a starter. With his current contract having expired, he is a free agent (after playing for both Boston and Washington this year) and there are no guarantees that he’ll be signed by a team for next season. But by all accounts he is a valuable “big man”, a Center with defensive prowess, as opposed to one that can score lots of points, and he still has some value as a player, so hopefully we’ll see him on the court later this year.

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Collins’ surprising statement drew positive reaction and support from current NBA players such as Kobe Bryant, Baron Davis, Bradley Beal, Emeka Okafor, Kenneth Faried (current owner of the NBA’s best hairstyle!), Steve Nash, Tony Parker, Chauncey Billups, and even Metta World Peace (the controversial player formerly known as Ron Artest). There were also supportive statements from non-athletes such as Bill Clinton and Michelle Obama.  But you can bet that there are many people in the NBA and professional sports who are uncomfortable with, if not angered by, Jason Collins’ announcement. Most of the homophobes will be reticent to voice opinions at this time, but I did notice a few negative comments about Collins, not surprisingly made by the masters of intolerance, those of the Christian faith. Mark Jackson, an ex-player and current coach of the Golden State Warriors said: “As a Christian man, I have beliefs of what’s right and what’s wrong. That being said, I know Jason Collins, I know his family and I’m certainly praying for them at this time.”

He’ll pray for them? How loony is that? And he makes the typical and ludicrous Christian judgment of equating homosexuality with sin. Hey Mark Jackson; you are a moron! And yet another idiot, this one an ESPN NBA writer named Chris Broussard, said: “Personally, I don’t believe that you can live an openly homosexual lifestyle or an openly premarital sex between heterosexuals, if you’re openly living that type of lifestyle, then the Bible says you know them by their fruits, it says that’s a sin. If you’re openly living in unrepentant sin, whatever it may be, not just homosexuality, adultery, fornication, premarital sex between heterosexuals, whatever it may be, I believe that’s walking in open rebellion to God and to Jesus Christ. I would not characterize that person as a Christian because I do not think the Bible would characterize them as a Christian.”

And people like this are given voices in the mass media? Are these people scary or what? Can you say: Cro-mag? Their faith dictates that they must believe this way? Sorry, but that’s just nothing but ignorance in my opinion. Comments like those only reinforce my long-standing belief that most Christians — along with any other religious zealots, whether they are Muslims, Hindus, or Jews — are clueless, dangerous characters that need to carted off and dumped on a remote island somewhere, far away from the rest of intelligent civilization.

Seriously, why is it that so many of us continue to tolerate the religious extremists in our midst, especially their absurd dangerous, fairy tale beliefs?  We can roll our eyes and call these people nutcases, but when they continue to be given a voice in the media and are able influence politicians and lawmakers, and as a result affect our lives, it’s time we woke up and took some action.

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A group of sports writers on one website were discussing Collins’s coming out and the impact it will have on his career. One writer wondered if Collins would have difficulty with his teammates. Some thought that it won’t be a big issue, but others suspect there will indeed be some players who are either uncomfortable with being in the locker room with a gay player or who will remain outwardly hostile to homosexuals. Part of that hate, hostility and violence is ingrained in American culture and its warped “Christian values”. Here in Southeast Asia, where the tolerant tenets of Buddhism (more of a philosophy than a religion, some would say) affect the behavior of the people, being gay is not much of an issue at all. In public schools, for example, if a student is gay or lesbian, they might — at the very worst — be playfully teased by their classmates, but without any nastiness vindictiveness. Mai Pen Rai, they would say here in Thailand. But at a school in the United States you can bet that there would be a definite element of cruelty at play, if not something much worse. Remind me again of the suicide statistics for gay youth in the USA? And you can thank those “gentle” God-fearing Christians for the continuing existence of such hate and cruelty.

Thinking about the Jason Collins story and the nasty cloud of religion that hovers over so many issues, I thought of the possible repercussions from an even bigger news event. What if a major candidate for political office in the USA declared: “I am not a Christian, nor do I have religious beliefs of any kind. I remain an atheist.” Now THAT would truly rock some boats. But just like Jason Collins’ announcement, it’s time for someone to step forward and shout it out!

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