Since Dianne Feinstein and Ted Cruz’s back and forth over gun control this week, I’ve been thinking about Harvey Milk a lot. Why? Because Feinstein was the President of the Board of Supervisors in San Francisco when Supervisor Dan White murdered Mayor George Moscone and fellow Supervisor Harvey Milk at gun point in 1978. Feinstein literally checked for a pulse against the bloody neck of Supervisor Milk through a bullet hole.
Moscone and Milk were both liberals. Many would argue that Milk is the greatest gay activist in the history of our country. If you don’t know much about Harvey, I highly recommend viewing The Times Of Harvey Milk, or if you have an aversion to documentaries, then the wonderful Sean Penn film, Milk, is well worth your time too. Hell, see both.
Moscone and particularly, Milk, have become martyrs for the liberal and progressive movements. We wax poetic over what they did, and more fitfully, what they might have done. Harvey’s life has been made into the two movies I referenced before, and there are posters, t-shirts, books, and quotes all over Facebook dedicated to his extraordinary significance. And my goodness was he significant.
He was the first openly gay man to ever be elected to public office in the state of California. He was a champion of the working man as well as LGBT causes. He was the rarest of beasts, an activist politician. Think about it, how many of those can you name today? In life and in death, he has done as much to further the cause of equality as just about anyone.
His accomplishments were hard won while in the face of great danger. A danger he was well aware of.
He once said:
If a bullet should enter my brain, let that bullet destroy every closet door.”
How awfully prophetic those words turned out to be.
We are at a time when the discussion of guns and gays is at a high-pitched tipping point, and I for one, am sick to death of martyrs. I want people like Harvey Milk to live. We need leaders. We need them now. We have lost so much in the last 50 years. Two Kennedys, Martin, Malcolm, Moscone, Harvey, and so many others whose names we may not ever know because they were never able to achieve what they might have. Something tells me those assassinations have created hesitation and too much caution within those who are in positions to push for progress not only on LGBT issues, but other issues of fairness, equality, and basic decency.
Harvey was famous for saying, “You gotta give ’em hope” Right he was. The tragedy of his death mobilized a movement and put a human face on the cause. But boy, I would have preferred that he be leading the charge as opposed to simply having his face on the end of a high held sign.
Enough, Damn it. Enough.