Harvey Milk is a hero. The first openly gay man to be appointed to political office in the United States, the world will never know what he might have accomplished as he was assassinated shortly after in the year I was born, 1978. If the open availability of guns in the United States is ever defended, one only needs to call into question the number of brilliant, young leaders and progressive minds who were shot to death, with guns, in the United States, during the 60s and 70s: Milk, Dr. King, Malcolm X, John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, and more.
Imagine the world we’d now live in if these men had lived.
Milk is often referred to as a gay martyr or a hero within the gay community. But that is to shorthand his meaning, as insufficient and narrow as to say that Mandela is a hero to black people or that the Dalai Lama is a hero to Buddhists. For the lives and humanity of all good and decent people are improved, our very humanity is exalted, when someone, regardless of their reasons or their personal struggle, acts to free us all through their triumph. Harvey Milk is absolutely a hero to gay people, but more than that Harvey Milk is a hero of the world.
The trailer for Gus Van Sant’s new film, “Milk”, with the title role being played by the genius that is Sean Penn, debuted yesterday. I’ve been waiting for this movie since I first heard it was actually happening. Now that the trailer is out I can barely contain myself.
During a political campaign in the US where the ideal of “hope” has become a central theme, and during a time when the rights of homosexuals are being both rightly recognized while under more vehement attack than ever before, I think now is the perfect time to remember or learn about Harvey Milk. A homosexual man who brought the same simple message of hope to everyone 30 years ago, at a time when it was much less safe, even less accepted, and far more radical to be openly and proudly gay. He had the absolutely outlandish bravery to put himself on the line and deliver that message while being honest and open about who he was… and for that he ultimately lost his own life.