Jim Boeheim was honored by Syracuse Monday night for his 900th career victory when the third-ranked Orange defeated Detroit at the Carrier Dome. But instead of basking in his incredible achievement, the outspoken Boeheim, 68, railed against the gun culture that has turned this country into a shooting gallery for deranged serial murderers who have all-too-easy access to semi-automatic weapons.
After the tragic shootings in Connecticut, Jim Boeheim felt compelled to speak out on America’s gun culture and used the platform afforded by his historic 900th victory to do so. In some quarters he was criticized for doing so, for politicizing this non-political moment. This comes only a few weeks after Bob Costas used his halftime report, in the wake of the Jovan Belcher murder-suicide, to also speak on the topic of gun culture and gun control.
While it’s tempting to join the chorus of debate on the topic of gun control, especially from a spiritual perspective (because guns are designed to kill people and somehow we need to reconcile our gun culture with the kingdom mindset that says “turn the other cheek” and “love your enemies), one of the other things that interests me is the use of one’s platform.
Writers are told all the time to shy away from political stands, religion, race, or anything controversial. It’s all about protecting the brand and not offending any potential readers. We’re urged to be bland to the point of inoffensiveness, as we’re driven down the path of being more worried about not losing any twitter/facebook followers. True, sometimes readers can’t differentiate your political positions from your work. More times than not, they can’t separate your douchiness from your art.
I write because I have stories to tell and something to say. I have a voice, opinions, a worldview, a perspective. I could kid us both and not post any such views on my blog, but they will and should come out in my work if I’m true to who I am. And you know what? That’s okay. What makes you unique as an artist is your voice and perspective, that special way you come at the world. Some people will like it, some people won’t. That’s okay, too.
There are some athletes who were criticized for being so bland and non-offensive, for example, Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan, because they never took a stand. They never used the platform they had to effect any real change. Maybe they ultimately weren’t about anything except their brand. There were others who risked their popularity, say Jim Brown or Muhammed Ali, chancing offending some and losing fans with each stance, but being true to who they were.
Not everyone is comfortable being a political target, I get that. I also think you’re obligated to use your or else you have squandered your gift and your opportunity, thus ultimately failing yourself and your audience.