When John Amaechi told the world he was gay, he steeled himself for a torrent of negativity that never really materialized, the former pro basketball player told the GOP's largest gay organization Saturday.It's good that Amaechi is acknowledging being wrong.
"I underestimated America. I braced myself for the wrath of a nation under God," Amaechi said at the Log Cabin Republicans' annual convention. "I imagined that it would be a firestorm, that it would be some insane number of letters demanding my deportation or my death.
"And in fact, 95 percent of the correspondence I've had have been overwhelmingly supportive and positive," Amaechi said. "But I will say that the 5 percent that I've had have been unbelievably, viscerally, frighteningly negative."
Amaechi is a psychologist who works with corporations and also with children, "and I worried what America would make of that," he said. "And it is not an issue."
But I'm more interested in why he had those expectations in the first place. How can a man be so out of touch with the reality as to think that a public figure proclaiming his homosexuality, in itself, is a life-or-death matter? Forty years ago ... sure. If he were an active player ... a different set of considerations and stakes; but there may be some negativity, sure. But have a sense of proportion, people.
The active debate in the US today, for better or worse, is not whether we should jail homosexuals or stone them to death ("wrath ... under God" and all of that, ya know), but whether marriage should be redefined to accommodate them. The US military is debating between requiring homosexuals to be discreet or allowing them to be openly practicing.
And what does "the wrath of a nation under God" mean? Amaechi is a smart and cultured man, who well knows the resonances and connotations of his phrasings: "wrath" specifically invokes the divine, and "nation under God" specifically invokes the US constitutional order and live political fights. This only underscores his complete removal from reality. Christians today discuss among ourselves how to best minister to homosexuals, not how to wall them up in ghettoes and require the wearing of pink triangles. What gay-bashing and death threats as there are hardly come wrapped in the mantle of the Church or explicit religiosity. It's as if Amaechi believed there were these creatures called ... what would be a good name ... uh ... "Christianists" who roam the land like the pod-people in "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" waiting to establish a theocracy. I wonder where such an idea could be afoot.
Further, if Amaechi's fears were sincere and reasonable at the level of death threats or some judgement about America in general, why would he publicly "come out" at all (for better or worse, homosexuals, unlike Jim Crow-era Southern blacks, DO have the option of discretion and living unhindered)? Instead Amaechi wrote a book proclaiming his homosexuality, an act that has won him far more notoriety than he ever had as a basketball player. Instead, he publicly proclaimed that Tim Hardaway would cause hundreds of thousands to flee in terror.
Here's the great paradox surrounding prejudice. In a society that were really, truly and fundamentally homophobic, nobody would be voluntarily "coming out" (much less doing it for a profitable book deal) and the charges "you're hurting homosexuals" (by making them fear or flee, say) or "you're a homophobe" would have no bite and would not need to be denied, effectively or otherwise. Yet Amaechi's actions betray the exact opposite expectations -- he came out, he wrote a book, he denounced Hardaway et al as homophobic. Those actions speak far louder than wherever he was getting these ideas that the American Christianist theocracy would kill him. Yet STILL, as if it's some learned reflex like "Polly Wanna Cracker," the gay propagandist betrays anti-Christian and anti-society prejudices.