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Wednesday, July 01, 2009

*got milk?

I watched Milk this weekend, and afterward my brain felt ... stuffed. I had that geius feeling of having an infinite number of things to say on the subject, not one of them coherent.

In other words, this post is going to be terrific.

The thing that attracted me most to Harvey Milk is that he's just a guy. Not a superhero, not a rocket scientist, not a paragon—just a guy.

Harvey Milk in Board of Supervisors Chambers in City Hall at the Budget Hearings openings, 1978


(See? There he is, sittin' in City Hall, changing the landscape for all gay people in the country, all, "Feh. I'm just a guy.")

But he was the best kind of guy, one of those quietly spectacular people who keep their magnetism at a low-level hum. Harvey's (can I call you Harvey?) basic theory was that all people have value, that our humanity is the part of us most worth saving—and it was in a great deal of peril—and that it is essential that we embrace our choices

Portrait of Harvey Milk in Navy uniform, between 1953 and 1954


without ever taking ourselves too seriously.

Harvey Milk in the Navy, between 1953 and 1954


OK, so it's not a novel concept. After all, the Bible people stand on to give their persecution a better vantage point does have that Golden Rule business in it. But like I said, Harvey wasn't a rocket scientist. He was just a guy with a message that gay rights are human rights.

And the reason that stuck, trapped in my swirling thoughts ("I'm hungry. Why is Britney Spears still wearing denim shorts? I'm hungry. Huh. Is this shirt clean? Who's going to win So You Think You Can Dance? Does that show have a question mark at the end? If I'm asking a question about it, do I have to render it So You Think You Can Dance?? Is there a statute of limitations on accidental shoplifting? I'm hungry.") is that it hit me in the Sad Space.

You know the one. It's the helplessness corner of your emotional sphere, the place you put all your most poisonous realities, like the fact that some of the people you love hardest in all the world haven't lived in the same world that you have. Called names, denied jobs, baselessly accused of heinous crimes against children, and murdered on public sidewalks? That all happened to gay people in my lifetime.

Even as I approach the corner of crotchety and old, isn't that stunning? And sobering? And maddening? And desperate-making?

I was speechless and shaking by the end of the movie, flooded with the desire to find my very own soap box, to clamber on to it and tell an ignorant world to GET USED TO IT already.

I don't have anything new to say on this subject. It's been said better here. And certainly here:



But I feel the point is worth making. Over and over and over and over again. Until it's no longer acceptable to deny other human beings the considerations we lavish on our entitled selves. Harvey Milk fought for that. He made San Francisco a safer place, and he made California a more humane population, and he helped sculpt a future for gay people that wasn't all fear and shame and suicide.

But what did he know?

Harvey Milk at opening of 1975 campaign for Supervisor, 1975


He's just a guy.




Photos from the San Francisco Public Library Historical Photos Flickr stream

4 comments:

Jeannie says:
at: 4:39 PM said...

well said

jhb
at: 5:16 PM said...

If that was incoherent, let me be incoherent ALL THE TIME.

Anonymous
at: 5:35 PM said...

I love you. And I loved this post. Dad

doug says:
at: 9:15 PM said...

wonderfully written and well said, as always, and I've not even seen the movie. remember when you used to just write about cooking?

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