Michael Sam's draft response nothing more than an act of love

Posted: May 15, 2014

THERE WAS no shortage of reactions in the wake of Michael Sam's televised draft-day kiss with his boyfriend, most of them falling into one of three categories:

1) Awwww

2) Ewwww

3) Mmmmm . . . cake

There was, however, a fourth category of reaction, from a segment of parents who harbored concerns about how their children would react to watching an intimate display between two men on television (that these parents had no qualms subjecting their kids to Day 3 of the NFL draft tells us we still have plenty of work to do in raising awareness about early-childhood exposure to Mel Kiper, but that's a different issue).

To paraphrase: What am I supposed to tell my kid when he sees that?

It is a pertinent question. To those parents, I submit the following answer:

Kid, those two men are kissing and crying because they love each other and are happy. The bigger guy is a football player. He is happy he will get a shot at playing in the NFL. The smaller guy is crying because he is happy for the bigger guy. That might seem strange, but emotions are convoluted things. You'll learn that as you get older. You will cry when you are happy and laugh when you are mourning. You will insult friends, and you will assuage enemies, and you will never completely understand why you do any of these things. Especially when you are in love.

What does it mean to be in love? When two people are in love, they love each other equally. Sometimes, that means everything you saw on TV. It means kissing, and it means crying, and and it means hugging: It means utilizing every means of affection at your disposal to show another person just how happy you are to be sharing your life. When two people are in love, they help each other achieve happiness, and sometimes that happiness is so intense, so overwhelming, that the brain cannot express it via words, and so it relies on actions, such as hugging, and kissing, and crying, and some other behaviors we will talk about when you are a bit older. When two people are in love, they experience a lot of moments like that.

I realize we are getting a little deeper than most 9-year-old brains tend to go, but you are a smart kid, and you come from good stock, and you seem to comprehend all of this. Keep blowing bubbles in your milk if you understand me. OK. Good.

So what is love? I'm not sure how many of us adults have ever sat down and thought about it. The Bible says it is patient, it is kind, it does not envy, or boast, it always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. It is the Great Commandment. All of this is true. A shorter version: Love is happiness achieved via selflessness. It is not a form of power, or possession. It is the opposite of that. When somebody else's happiness matters more to you than your own, you love that person, and you express your love to them via an active participation in their pursuit of happiness.

For example, I love you. Not the same way I love your mother, or the same way those two men on television love each other, but the way a father loves a son. My happiness depends on your happiness, and I never want you to be afraid to tell me if something is making you unhappy inside. I don't want you ever to be afraid to express what you feel, just as those two men on television aren't afraid to express what they feel. Sometimes, people feel as if they must keep something important to them buried inside, and it makes those people miserable. I don't want you ever to feel that way.

Those two men on the screen kissing probably felt that way for much of their lives. They probably felt that they had a secret they could not tell anybody, that an important part of their identity was missing. They probably felt miserable. You see, most men fall in love with women, the way I fell in love with your mother. But some men fall in love with other men. Nobody really knows why. For whatever reason, that's what makes them happy inside. Yet some people believe a man should not love another man, not in the manner in which those two men on television love each other. They believe a man should not kiss and hug and cry with another man, not in the way those two men on television are kissing and hugging and crying with each other. In fact, for a long time, most of society felt that way. They voted for laws that discriminated against men who loved men. They threw them in jail, said crude things to them.

I suppose that will lead to your next question. At least, it would if you were still listening, and pondering the existential ramifications of what you just saw on television, instead of staring dreamily out the window, thinking about whatever it is 9-year-olds actually think about. But that's all well and good. I'm glad you aren't listening. Because I thought you were going to ask me why some people believe others shouldn't be happy. And, to be honest, I don't really have a logical answer for that.

On Twitter: @ByDavidMurphy

Blog: ph.ly/HighCheese

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