Monday, December 15, 2008

Harvey Milk

“My name is Harvey Milk and I want to recruit you.” This was the phrase Mr. Milk became known for in his struggle for the gay community in the United States during the 1970s. After moving to San Francisco in 1972, Milk lived and worked as a businessman, activist, organizer, politician, and was the first openly gay man elected to a major political office (San Francisco Board of Supervisors/City Council).
The recently released movie, Milk, starring Sean Penn, who plays Harvey with devastating effect, is a masterful homage to the man.
Admittedly, what I know about the late Harvey Milk is largely limited to the well-crafted film, written through the sympathetic pen of an openly gay man who was brought up in a Latter-Day Saint (Mormon) family. And this is exactly why the film has the power that it does. It provides a poetic insider view to the personal experience of what it was, and is, to be gay and fighting for identity, understanding, personal dignity and civil rights. Doubtless, there is much more to the story of Milk’s life and the public and personal events than can be depicted in one film.
However, this picture provoked in me reconsideration for the struggle that gay individuals encounter. This film should evoke compassion, especially from the Christian community in the United States that is sadly and deservedly known for being anti-gay. Sadly, I doubt the response to Milk by the religious community will be characterized by an up-swelling of goodwill. Likely, the film will serve to promote an entrenched opposition expressed with righteous platitudes for what it is to live a righteous life before God. The film specifically targets the Christian Right’s strident attempts to fight off the ‘homosexual scourge’, by way of several propositions across the country, most notably Prop 6 that proposed outlawing gay and lesbian school teachers in the state of California. There is a clip of then President Jimmy Carter saying, “Vote against Prop 6.” President Carter was not the kind of Christian that the Christian Right likes. But perhaps he is a Christian more in the likeness of Jesus Christ – the one whom Christians purport to follow.
The story of Prop 6 is especially relevant, and interesting to me because of California Prop 8, recently passed, limiting marriage to a man and woman. Not surprisingly, the proposition was aggressively pursued by the Religious Right, perhaps especially the LDS Church. Ironic that the LDS church would enter so prominent a fray that deals with what a legal marriage is, given the history and ongoing polygamy within the family of the Latter-Day Saints.
My name is Zach Hancock and I want to recruit you – to be a person who will vow to seek friendship with at least one gay person(s) before you make any attempts at opposition to the gay community. Begin by viewing Milk.

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