Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Milk


Do you know who Harvey Milk was?


I'm sure you do, because you are reading this blog and therefore you are smart, socially minded and overall a very good person.

A quick catch up for those of you who stumbled on this post by accident and have read this far.



Milk was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977 and became the first openly gay American politician.



In 1978, Milk and the San Francisco mayor were assassinated by Dan White, another city supervisor who resigned but was demanding his job back.


However, that isn't why I'm bringing him up. 





I'm bringing him up because, agree with his premise of equal rights or not, his methods of advocacy were absolutely genius. Think of what our current national leaders are doing, not doing, secretly doing . . . and think of the opposite. Yeah . . . like that!

Three examples . . . they don't involve Koch Brothers so you're safe from hearing my fawning love and admiration . . . for this post anyway.
 


First, Milk formed alliances and unlikely partnerships which benefited groups that typically had little power.


Workers for Coors beer had been attempting to unionize but had not been able to organize an effective boycott. Milk coordinated the removal of Coors products from all the bars in the Castro district. Coors gave in and Milk made unlikely allies. 




One of the unions reps, after Milk was shot, talked about
how getting to know Milk and the gay community changed his perception. (I can't make it sound as heartfelt and genuine as the interview. This guy was one manly, redneck dude tearing up over the death.)



That leads me to the second example. Anita Bryant, an ex-beauty queen, orange juice model (oh, just go
ogle it) and a fundamentalist christian singer, founded "Save Our Children" campaign to repeal local Florida laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. (Hmmm, where have I recently heard about "religious freedom", no cake for queers, laws?) 


She also went after California, demanding to have all gay public school employees fired.



Milk countered with a push for gay people to come
out of the closet. He believed that most Americans shared friendships, work relationships, neighborhoods and churches with closeted gays. Nothing changes without the realization that people they already liked, respected and cared about were gay.

Absolutely brilliant and a lesson from countless
political and religious campaigns. Humans have a hard time ignoring, assaulting or killing people they relate to.


The final example is the most important. Milk received an overwhelming number of calls and letters from gay people, particularly young people, who had given up and were resigned to be permanently closeted or had decided to kill themselves. He understood how devastating and overwhelming hopeless is. 


So this is the part where I think, in my very little brain, how much do I want to immortalize my perpetual tornado of hopelessness. I guess I'll say the reasons aren't my sexuality but certainly similar in poor understanding and distain. It has been crippling.





A few more reasons I like Harvey Milk?




Milk was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009 which upset Rush Limbaugh. Good rule of thumb, if Rush doesn't like something it probably something likable. 



One more? Milk didn't participate in politics until after he was 40. Anyone that can reinvent themselves later in life gives me a bit of hope. 




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