Hard To Fathom

In the face of the encouraging fact that for the most part Americans are generous in their willingness to help those in need, there is something deeply disturbing about the juxtaposition of the following stories:

On the one hand, there is news of the St. Louis Rams moving to Los Angles where they will play in a stadium complex — referred to as an NFL Campus — that will cost an estimated $1.86 billion. Specifically,

The owner of the St. Louis Rams plans to build an NFL stadium in Inglewood, which could pave the way for the league’s return to Los Angeles.

Rams owner Stan Kroenke, who bought 60 acres adjacent to the Forum a year ago, has joined forces with the owners of the 238-acre Hollywood Park site, Stockbridge Capital Group. They plan to add an 80,000-seat NFL stadium and 6,000-seat performance venue to the already-massive development of retail, office, hotel and residential space, Stockbridge and the Kroenke Group told The Times.

The owner of the Rams who is building the new “Campus” has expressed his willingness to pay the NFL, out-of-pocket, the required $550 million it will cost to move his team. Needless to say, the NFL owners voted unanimously to move the team. On the other hand, there is this harsh reality:

For the past four years, Syria has been in a civil war that has forced 11 million people— half the country’s pre-crisis population—to flee their homes. About 7.6 million Syrians have been internally displaced within the country and 4 million have fled Syria for other countries. The result is one of the largest forced migrations since World War Two.

The refugee crisis began in 2011, when thousands of Syrian citizens fled across the border to neighboring Turkey and Lebanon. By early July 2011, 15,000 Syrian citizens had taken shelter in tent cities, set up in the Yayladağı, Reyhanlı and Altınözü districts of Hatay Province, near Turkey’s border with Syria. By the end of that month, 5,000 of the refugees had returned to Syria. However, by late June 2011, the number of Syrian refugees in Lebanon had reached around 10,000 people. By mid-July 2011, the first Syrian refugees found sanctuary in Jordan, with their numbers reaching 1,500 by December. On 21 September the European Union approved a plan committing itself to taking in 120,000 refugees. The newly elected Liberal Government announced that it would bring 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada by the end of 2015 and struck a cabinet sub-committee chaired by the Minister of Health, Jane Philpott, to fast track their resettlement.

Over the protests of the fear-mongers among us, the United States has also shown a willingness to allow a few thousand refugees to emigrate to this country as well. And as I say, we must read these clips while keeping in mind the fact that Americans are as a rule most generous in donating to causes. It is one of the more pleasing things to note about American character. But there are those very wealthy Americans who seem determined to squander their millions on unworthy causes. In their focus on the here and now of gigantic profits they are content to stand by and watch the impoverished and homeless increase in numbers in their own country, while (one suspects) totally oblivious to the needs of starving people in other countries around the world.

There is something bizarre about the fact that there are those among us who could do so much good with their multi-millions and who choose instead to spend all their time and energy finding ways to increase those millions. There is such a gulf between doing well and doing good.

Shocking!?

You have almost certainly heard about the brew-ha-ha surrounding Michael Sam, the large football player from the University of Missouri who “came out of the closet” last Spring to the delight of talking heads around the country. He was recently drafted by the St. Louis Rams and gave his partner a large kiss on the mouth moments after breaking down in tears upon receiving word that he had been drafted. The moment was doubly shocking to many because Sam is black and his partner is white: not only homosexuality, but inter-racial homosexuality! The emotions of the two men were very real and the ensuing discussion by the talking heads rather intense. . . . and certainly ongoing.

To their credit both the NFL and ESPN, which have supported Sam in their coverage of the events surrounding his announcement and subsequent draft status, aired the film of the kiss repeatedly ( I say again, repeatedly) as if to say: we fully support homosexuality in sports and if you don’t like it that’s your problem. The networks love to show raw emotion as a rule, but the kiss between a man and his male partner broke new ground and it was praised on one side and condemned on the other. Some have likened this event to Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat on a bus in 1955. This was a historical event, to be sure, and the emotions of many people have been stirred: reverberations will be heard for many months to come, I dare say. I suspect that many folks in TV land sprained their thumbs tweeting hate mail regarding Sam to their friends. The man has made a bed that I suspect he will find very hard to lie in. But I sincerely wish him well. He showed great courage given the temper of the times; homosexuality is simply a fact of life and it is time we grew up, recognized it and came to accept it.

After all, the Greeks, especially the Thebans and Spartans who were reputed to be some of the most fearless warriors the world has known, were unashamedly homosexual. They admired the male body, wrestled in the nude (as did their Athenian neighbors) and simply accepted the fact that men could love one another and even have sex with no social stigma attached. Socrates was supposed to have had a sexual relationship with Alcibiades while, at the same time, he was married and had several children. Homosexual practices in Greece, usually involving an older man and a younger one, go back at least to Homer who suggested the relationship between Achilles and Patroclus in the Iliad. There were, as well, homosexual relationships between women as depicted by the poet Sappho. These relationships were not regarded as the least bit unusual, which leads me to surmise that 2000 years ago they were more sophisticated and mature than we are! What happened in the meantime, of course, was organized Christianity in all its myriad forms (especially Puritanism) and the attendant taboos against all sorts of sexual conduct, not the least of which were homosexual activities, and even simple nudity.

Anthony Burgess wrote a novel years ago titled The Wanting Seed in which he envisioned a time when the earth had started to dry up and stop producing food to feed its burgeoning human populations. The expanding numbers of hungry humans led the leaders of his world to embrace homosexuality and hold it up as a paradigm for human conduct. It was one way to reduce the exploding populations of humans: after all, there cannot be any progeny as a result of sexual intercourse between consenting, same-sex, partners! He may have been on to something. It might be that after the dust has settled from Michael Sam’s passionate embrace and kiss on national television — and that will take some time — we will come to not only accept homosexuality as a fact of life, but regard it as exemplary behavior to be emulated. In a word, we may eventually grow up, which is a good thing. And as a bonus, as Burgess suggested, it may be a way of reducing the growing number of humans who seem determined to destroy the planet while they express their mindless outrage at what they regard as bizarre sexual behavior.