Mere blocks from where I used to live in my home country of Trinidad, the life of a woman revered for her take-no-prisoners candour and clear-as-crystal explanations of complex legalese was snuffed out, assassination-style.
Dana Seetahal’s murderers — still at large — cut in front of her as she drove home in the early morning hours of May 4 and emptied their gun clips.
For the better part of a decade, Trinidadians have come to expect the almost-daily ticking over of the murder count. The bold, chillingly executed hit on Seetahal brought the toll, at that point, to 160 killings for 2014, more than for the same period last year.
In many people’s shell-shocked minds, her murder and the meticulous manner in which it appears to have been commissioned, conceived and concluded signalled that the ante on violence committed by professionals with reptilian blood has been upped.
“We woke up Sunday morning knowing in a very concrete way that a message was being sent to the legal profession, journalists, columnists, activists, anyone bold enough to question the criminal and corruption status quo. Toe the blasted line, or this will be you,” a Trinidadian cultural studies researcher wrote in an opinion piece 48 hours later.
We are meant to be — called to be — outraged and heartbroken.
So when I clicked on to the NFL Network a week to the day after that stomach-churning news broke, the sight of a tense, then sobbing Michael Sam bear-hugging and kissing his equally delighted boyfriend, Vito Cammisano, was a relief from the sombre daze in which I had been drifting for days.
My own tears blurred my vision. My hands were balled into fists, pumping the air in the direction of the new St Louis Rams player, who is poised to become the first active, openly gay NFL-er if he makes the team’s final cut in the fall.
Sports networks, the domain of loud, bravado-fuelled commentary, didn’t slink off to a commercial break about muscular trucks but lingered on the Sam smoochfest, which became contagious enough to inspire a callout for Facebookers, Instagram-ers and tweeters to share their own lip-locking moments.
Except — as expected — not all of us were so inspired.
Among the moments of misplaced aversion and resentment over what men and masculinity ought to look, act and sound like: the Miami Dolphins’ Don Jones tweeted Sam directly about his “horrible” kiss, while former Ole Miss college basketball player Marshall Henderson deemed it “sickening” and declared he would boycott ESPN “til this michael sam nasty ass shit is off.”
As if that predictable homophobic manure wasn’t enough, Washington DC lobbyist Jack Burkman pledged to release the Christian hounds via a boycott against the Rams and Visa for signing Sam, predicting “terrible financial” repercussions while advocating for legislation to ban openly gay players from the NFL and other pro sports.
Michael Sam has the second-best-selling jersey of his NFL draft class . . . so good luck with that anti-gay agenda, Jack.
Something is wrong — almost pathologically so — when we muster the kind of anger rightfully reserved for cold-blooded murders like Dana’s, the kidnapping of Nigerian children, the vicious cauldron that is Syria and growing civil strife in Ukraine and unleash it instead on two men joyfully sealing a landmark moment with a kiss.