Anne Frank and Magic Johnson.
That’s not two people you tend to talk about at the same time too often, mostly because they came from very different worlds within a world, I suppose.
But, destiny is funny, huh? And even long after we are gone from this life, sometimes we remain and reappear like a small twig in the breeze tapping at some midnight window.
This past week, after reading a lot of cool stuff about basketball legend/HIV fighter/ family man Magic Johnson and the love and support he was publicly giving his son, EJ, as the young man decided to reveal that he was gay, I noticed something out of the corner of my proverbial eye.
There was an ever-so-slight movement and when I turned to get a better look I saw two people coming together through a hazy twist of fate no one, especially me, had ever seen coming.
Anne Frank lived a short life that was, by all accounts, mostly good until it went so horribly bad. But even as she was forced to hide from the Nazis and the world alongside her family in seclusion, the young Jewish girl whose bright promise and soaring spirit were doomed by some of the worst hatred the world has ever known, she managed to keep a diary that may just be one of the most powerful books ever written.
The Diary of a Young Girl, compiled from the loose pages of handwritten entries found scattered all over the floor after Ms. Frank and her family had been discovered and deported to concentration camps, tells the simultaneous stories of both a teenage girl during World War II and an unbreakable compassionate spirit in the face of so much adversity.
Reading Anne’s words lately, and then looking into her eyes via the photographs of her that remain, I have been repeatedly floored and saddened and moved and inspired by this kid who never ever gave up hoping that someday her world would rectify itself and fly right. And that she and her family and all of the families just like hers, people who had done nothing wrong to anyone, would be able to return to living a peaceful life.
Then, last week, Magic Johnson, of all people, showed up on our cyber doorsteps.
Since 1991, when he was diagnosed with having the HIV virus, the hoops legend has been a prominent presence on the gay rights scene as he aligned himself with groups committed to furthering HIV research and extending information to the world. In the field of professional sports, where openly gay people simply do not ‘exist’, Johnson (who is not gay) has been one of the very few to help champion an open dialogue amongst athletes and African-Americans and damn near everyone else when it comes to the often taboo’d subject of gay rights.
Now, he has come out with a story none of us can ignore. His own son, EJ, a 20-year old NYU student, has decided to come out of the closet and to live as an openly gay man. Magic Johnson’s unwavering support and full-on show of love and admiration for his son has been nothing short of beautiful this past week.
The website TMZ’s founder Harvey Levin, a gay man and an outspoken advocate for equal rights, conducted a really insightful in-depth interview with Magic that covered everything from the hate aimed at him and his son on the internet to the absolute inspiring words that the father told his son when he finally came out to his family.
It just so happens that yesterday and today are Holocaust Remembrance Day officially.
But, tomorrow should be too, really, and all the tomorrows to come as well; it is in the here and now that we watch Anne Frank as she quietly steps back down out of her frozen past and continues to live on in ways she probably never would have imagined. A world-famous athlete who has known struggle in his time calls out his love for his son from the rooftops and tells the world that he could care less who his son decides to be, he will always love him, and Anne turns her old young eyes his way.
If pressed, we might not have ever said that Magic and Anne seemed to have much in common, but we would have been so wrong. Across the generations and the miles, across so much history and pain and achievement and blood, these two were always connected.
Hell, we all were.
And we still are.
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