Did you hear the one about the priest and the emperor?

Photo by Brooke Lark

Around 1,752 years ago in Rome this month a young man had his head chopped off because of his belief system. This fellow was a priest who really enjoyed ministering to the faithful of a whole new religion called Christianity which was spreading throughout the Mediterranean. 

Since it was new, it wasn’t clearly understood and as a result was feared and shrouded in mystery with all sorts of rumours thrown in as well.  Sometimes these Christians were thrown to the lions in the coliseum, which must have really discouraged possible believers and conversions.

Anyway, this unfortunate fellow was named Valentinus and he rejected the traditional worshipping of various deities and gods of the Ancient Romans. This really angered Claudius II, the Roman emperor at the time, who took it upon himself to have Valentinus executed.

Valentine was buried in a Christian cemetery north of Rome on Feb. 14. He was considered by Christians to be a martyr and made him a saint with Feb. 14 chosen as his feast day.  He is the patron saint of such varied this as epilepsy, plague, beekeepers but most famously is associated with love.

It seems that humans have always enjoying persecuting, harming, mistreating, killing and enslaving each other, especially those who think or look differently. 

Despite the advanced engineering skills and accomplishments of the ancient Romans, human rights really weren’t a passionate concept around the dinner table.  In fact, it would seem that even today many folks take it upon themselves to inflict misery and pain on others.

Are bullying and hatred everywhere humans are found?

LGBTQ+ folk know all about being intimidated, scorned, verbally abused and bashed about. Being gay is tough. Some people believe that it’s a choice — but who on earth would want to choose a lifestyle in which you risk being harassed, shunned, ostracized, condemned and things much worse? 

Oh, wouldn’t it be nice to enjoy a society where everyone can be whoever they want to be? A society in which it’s no one’s business or concern who I walk down the street with or where I go. A society in which skin colour made no difference, nor did gender or values and beliefs.

These days it seems we’ve become even more divided with anti-maskers —n o vaccine for you! — and conspiracy theorists spewing fear everywhere.  Who needs people believing they are better than others and or that they have some sort of special entitlement? This is not Ancient Rome.

So during this so-called month of romance and love it’s reassuring to know that at least in this corner of the world we are all free to follow our hearts and live in dignity.  Some fellow citizens, for whatever reason, seem to want to destroy the quality of our lives let’s not allow them to do so. The struggle for our human rights will always continue and we must never give up.

Oh, and one more thing before I forget, why is Rome called Roma in Italian but Rome in English? Who decided that we should drop the “a” at the end of Roma? I mean, it’s not a hard word to pronounce. Surely we can handle an extra syllable? I’ve always wondered about that.

Stay safe and well and look after each other, not just during these weird times, but always.