In the Arena

Fresh Air

I'm exhilarated by the news that Jason Collins, who plays professional basketball for the Washington Wizards, has come out of the closet.

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I’m exhilarated by the news that Jason Collins, who plays professional basketball for the Washington Wizards, has come out of the closet.

Andrew Sullivan, who has been such a stalwart and brilliant leader on this issue, quotes an absolutely crucial part of Collins’ coming out article:

No one wants to live in fear. I’ve always been scared of saying the wrong thing. I don’t sleep well. I never have. But each time I tell another person, I feel stronger and sleep a little more soundly.

That is the crucial element for me, the reason why I’m exhilarated: the anguish that our gay brothers and sisters have felt has been not only a plague on their lives, but an idiotic toll on the sum of human happiness. There have been too many sleepless nights, too many business ideas not pursued, athletic dreams deferred, Friday nights–no,whole lives–spent in isolation. There are those who will say that the creative anguish helped contribute to the gay world’s amazing impact on the arts, and there is some truth to that. Just look at what 5000 years pariahdom did for the Jews! But this will be a small price to pay for all the gay doctors and nurses, lawyers, firefighters, bus drivers and certified public accountants who no longer have to lie–keeping secrets requires a lot of energy–and who will be able to pursue happiness without having to look over their shoulders. Jason Collins has smashed down one of the closet’s strongest doors. This great exhalation, the ability to breathe easier, is something to celebrate, indeed.

And if you’ll permit me a slightly tortured segue: I believe that the same principle will hold if Obamacare is successfully enacted. The great exhale isn’t limited to those with pre-existing medical conditions. There are millions of self-employed individuals who have been oppressed by their general lack of market power when it comes to health insurance, their inability to get the same sort or rates and plans that employees of, say, Time-Warner do. There are millions more, trapped in stultifying jobs, who would  take the risk and become entrepreneurs–who would finally give that life-long dream of a new business a try–if they had the ability to get reliable, reasonably-priced health insurance outside of their workplace. The amount of creativity that could be unleashed, the potential burst of economic activity that may result next January isn’t talked about very often, because it can’t be quantified. But I suspect it will be real and an utter relief to millions of Americans.

For now, though, thanks to Jason Collins for bringing us all a step closer to being able to breathe free.