Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanking a Martyr

Among the many things for which to give secular thanks today, don't forget the enormous progress of the last thirty years since Nov. 27, 1978, when a gunman assassinated San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and openly gay city supervisor Harvey Milk.

It's hard even for those of us who were adults at the time to remember the fear and hatred of gays that led to a jury letting the cold-blooded assassin off with just five years in jail.

Hard for any young person today to imagine that educated, sophisticated people could seriously discuss whether Milk, as the first openly gay elected official in California (and probably the nation) had "asked for it."

Hard for activists to admit that it may have taken a hate crime to open the nation's eyes to the humanity of homosexuals.

At a time when disgusting homophobe Anita Bryant was traveling the country denouncing gays as subhuman perverts, Harvey Milk was standing up in then-conservative San Francisco for himself and for all gay Americans.

(More after the jump.)

I ask my gay sisters and brothers to make the commitment to fight. For themselves, for their freedom, for their country ... We will not win our rights by staying quietly in our closets ... We are coming out to fight the lies, the myths, the distortions. We are coming out to tell the truths about gays, for I am tired of the conspiracy of silence, so I'm going to talk about it. And I want you to talk about it. You must come out. Come out to your parents, your relatives.

If you think you don't know any gay people, you are deeply deluding yourself. Unless you live in a cave and never communicate in any way with human beings, know this:: you work with gay people, you live near gay people, you attend social events with gay people, you are related to gay people, you love gay people.

And for the fact that those gay people you work with and live near and socialize with and are related to and love are alive and thriving instead of bleeding to death in an alley after a beating, you can thank Harvey Milk.

On December 5, the new movie "Milk," opens nationwide. It stars Sean Penn in an Oscar turn, and should not be missed.

Or read Randy Shilts' superb book, The Mayor of Castro Street.

Cross-posted at They Gave Us A Republic.