I first really learned about Harvey Milk when I was a senior in high school. My high school football coach was also my government teacher. On the football field he was a predictably gruff old bastard, but in the classroom he was dynamic, open-minded and incredibly engaging. One day he showed us a documentary on Milk and Moscone. I remember the classroom being utterly silent for a few minutes after the film ended, until some moron who thought he was being funny said "fags." Coach moved faster than I thought humanly possible, grabbed the kid by the shirt collar and literally dragged him out of the classroom. That's always stuck with me. The documentary, and Coach's response to the same bigotry that contributed to Milk's assassination.
I was pissed when Mickey Rourke didn't win best actor last year. His turn in the Wrestler was so damn good. But now I get it. Sean Penn was just plain eerie as Milk. I found myself a few times remembering, that's Jeff Spicoli! So yeah, the Academy made the right choice. The movie as a whole was really, really good. Great supporting cast, great pacing. But without Penn in that role it's easily forgettable.
The movie brought back memories of the documentary. Of how emotionally draining I'd found it when I was 17. I was sad and angry back then, for the simple fact that I couldn't comprehend the kind of hatred and bigotry that could poison a person's soul.
Last night I was once again sad and angry. But this time it wasn't only because of the inhumanity of it. It was a sober reminder of the vast amount of citizens of this country who would piss all over our Declaration of Independence. And not just in the late 70s, but today. Last year -- 30 years after the California battle over Prop 6 -- was deja vu all over again with Prop 8, only this time the bigots won.
If you would not afford a fellow citizen of these United States the same exact freedoms and liberties that you would expect for yourself, simply on the basis of that person's skin color, religion or sexual orientation, you are not worthy of those freedoms that our forefathers gave you. And if you profess to be a Christian as you fight to restrict the rights of others, you are not worthy of the sacrifice your Christ made for you.
We've made remarkable progress in this country in the past 30 years with regard to government-supported bigotry. Harvey Milk had a lot to do with that progress as it pertains to homosexuals, and activists continue to fight the hatred and discrimination. But then there's Prop 8 and all the other efforts throughout the country to restrict our fellow citizens' rights. The progress we've made isn't nearly enough. We cannot allow the course of this country to continue to be dictated by the anti-American bigots who desire not freedom for all, but religious totalitarianism (though they don't know that because, come on, look at how long the word "totalitarianism" is). A reminder:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.