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Today in My History

2001:  Having a Whale of a Time
2002:  Be It Ever So Humble
2003:  Going Nowhere Fast

2004:  Rescue My Bathroom
2005
Charlie

2006:  More Nuts on the Family Tree
2007:   There's a Long, Long Trail a-Winding

2008:  Et Lux Erat


IN MY OPINION
Stom
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Books Read in 2008
 
Updated: 12/28
"The Black Echo" 


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LIFE AND TIMES

7 January 2009

For anyone who grew up, as I did, in the San Francisco of the 1950s, who lived in a nice white neighborhood and went to a nice Catholic school and was vaguely aware of the blaring headlines about raids on gay bars, with photos of men trying to hide their faces as they were pushed into paddy wagons; and who remembers Anita Bryant and the fight to take away civil rights from the gay community and the fundamentalists who brought Proposition 6 (which sought to remove gay teachers and straight people who supported them from their jobs) to California, which was going to be their moment of glory; and who remembers the murder of George Moscone and Harvey Milk and the aftermath -- the candlelight procession, the trial of Dan White, the "Twinkie Defense," the riot after his light sentencing and then his suicide...

...for anybody who was here and remembers that stuff, "Milk" will seem more like a documentary than a biopic.   Midway through the film, I realized why Robbie, my hairdresser, said that he didn't want to see the film because he lived through it once and didn't want to relive it.

I wondered how it plays in Peoria, to a group of people who may never have visited San Francisco and who weren't intimately familiar with every single location in the movie, let alone the names of the principle characters.  Who may not realize that they have ever met a gay person.  I wondered how it played as "just a movie" about a gay guy who was murdered, if you had no connections to the incidents portrayed.

I made a huge mistake before we went to the theatre today.  In my haste to get the puppies fed at the last minute so we could be gone for three hours, I forgot to stick some tissues in my purse, so my sweatshirt got a good soaking.  I couldn't believe how moved I was by the movie.  All of it.   From my tears at the start, with Diane Feinstein announcing the murder of Moscone and Milk to the tender parts, to the triumphant parts, and back again to the tragic parts.   This is a masterful film.

By the middle of the movie, I was very depressed.  It was when John Briggs and Anita Bryant decided to make California the battleground in their fight to remove civil rights from gay people.  Proposition 6 ("The Briggs Initiative") was a ballot initiative that would have made the firing of gay teachers -- and straight teachers sympathetic to gays-- mandatory. 

I even heard the ludicrous statement made by Briggs in debate with Milk that yes, the greater percentage of pedophiles were heterosexual, but if they could remove all homosexual teachers from the schools, they would at least reduce the number of potential child molestations.

I listened to Bryant's speeches, given with that vacant stare of someone who knows God is on her side and unconcerned about the damage she would do to other human beings.  I listened to Briggs equate homosexuality with pedophilia and bestiality.  I listened to people in the conservative audiences talk about the need to protect their children from pedophiles.

I thought about where we are now as opposed to where we were in 1978.  The gay pride parade is now an annual event, with the entire city participating, pink triangles on Twin Peaks and rainbow flags hung all the way from the Castro District to the Ferry Building.  Prop 6 did not pass and discrimination in the workplace or in housing, based on sexual orientation is illegal.   Anne Kronenberg, who was Harvey Milk's campaign manager is now Deputy Director for Administration and Planning of the San Francisco Department of Public Health and has worked with the Department for over 15 years. 

And when was the last time you heard anything about Anita Bryant?

But California just passed Prop 8, once again removing civil rights from gay people.  States all across the country are trying to do the same thing.  The arguments used in that ugly battle again compared homosexuality to pedophilia and bestiality, parents still feel that they needed to protect their children from the deviant homosexuals.

Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected official in the country, opened the door to a greater acceptance of gay people, but thirty years after his death, many of the same fears and prejudices still exist and the   same arguments by the same religious groups are still scaring people into separating human beings into "us" and "them."

How long is it going to take...?

 

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