Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Time To Stand Up

This week may end up being a mess for millions of Americans east of the Rockies again, mostly due to the weather. Even though that area includes all of our office locations, the week is turning out very well, as the proof of a concept we've been preaching for years has delivered fantastic results, in both politics and sports.

In the world of sports, Michael Sam, the SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Year, and a key player on the Missouri Tiger's highly successful football team, very publicly stood up for himself, and in two major media interviews announced to the world he was gay.

In a perfect world, Sam's announcement would have been received by the world like a mouse squeak in a stadium, - or as Lt. Col. Robert Bateman put it in Esquire, "So frigin what." However, as realists - and especially progressives - know well, we don't live in a perfect world.

Michael Sam's announcement became like the mouse that roared - and as Dave Zirin of The Nation noted, it rapidly began exposing the bigotry and hypocrisy of NFL coaches and executives. Pete Thamel's interviews in Sports Illustrated of anonymous NFL executives and coaches, and and ex-NFL coach Herm Edwards' comments were perfect examples of what Zirin stated. Sam's change in his pre-draft rating also seems to clarify further where the not-so-subtle bigotry remains in the NFL.

Players, however, seemed to show the kind of maturity on this issue we were glad to see. As Michael Sam noted in both his interviews, his teammates at Mizzou knew he was gay since last summer, and no one publicly "outed" him. Interviews with other NFL pros like former Vikings punter and LGBT advocate Chris Kluwe and NFL Player's Association Director Demaurice Smith further supported Sam, and seemed to highlight that Michael Sam's courage seems to be welcomed by a growing number of players.

That kind of courage, to stand up to bullies and stand up for what's right led to another big win this week, in Washington DC, in Congress.

Of course, we're talking about the debt ceiling debate, which ended Tuesday afternoon in a 221-201 vote, with 28 sane, moderate Republicans voting with 193 Democrats in the House to suspend the debt ceiling until March of 2015.

Greg Sargent of the Washington Post forecast Tuesday morning that the debt ceiling extortion House Republicans have been using for several years now was dead. Sargent, like us, has been saying for years that all Democrats needed to do to defeat the extremist Republicans in the House was to stand up to them - and once again, he was proven correct. Michael Tomasky of The Daily Beast went one step further, declaring the era of Republican hostage-taking to be over.

Meanwhile, the petulant tea party extremists in the House turned their anger on House Speaker John Boehner, weakly threatening they'd replace him. As journalist Robert Costa reported though, even Speaker Boehner no longer seems to be afraid of the extremists. During a House Republican breakfast meeting Tuesday morning, Boehner himself finally stood up for what was right, standing up to the fanatics in his own party, declaring he was putting forward a clean debt ceiling bill and that his decision was final.

To us, this kind of action, whether taken by Michael Sam or John Boehner, is a hallmark of being progressive - of making progress on serious issues that matter, while knocking aside petty issues that don't.

Who our leaders and heroes sleep with, marry, or date really doesn't matter much. What they get accomplished, on the field and in office, matters far more.

That may seem to be a simple, small declaration - but it's one we think has the power to make the intellectually and ethically weak scream and run in terror, while empowering the truly strong and just to do what's right.