Sunday, May 23, 2010

Harvey Milk Day or Milktoast Milk Day?

Graphic, Queerty

I was glad to see California celebrate the first Harvey Milk State holiday on Saturday, May 22, but, by the end of the day, I felt like I'd been through the first Milktoast Milk Day--not a day honoring the revolutionary Harvey, who as he himself said, was far more than a gay politician:

"I understand very well that my election was not alone a question of my gayness but a question of what I represent. In a very real sense, Harvey Milk represented the spirit of the neighborhoods of San Francisco. For the past few years, my fight to make the voice of the neighborhoods of this city be heard was not unlike the fight to make the voice of the cities themselves be heard." --Harvey Milk, San Diego, The Hope Speech, 1978

Pirate Cat Radio's League of Pissed Off Voters' broadcast, often my favorite radio hour of the week,  appropriately featured District #8 candidate Rafael Mandelman, who, of the candidates running for Harvey Milk's seat, would no doubt be Harvey Milk's choice over Scott Wiener, and Dan Nicoletta, one time employee of Harvey's at Castro Camera and acclaimed photographer of Harvey, with fond memories, but they didn't share any of Harvey's own words.

Then KPFA's Saturday Evening News segment featured Mark Leno, an Alice B. Toklas Democratic Club Dem, not a Harvey Milk Democratic Club Dem:  

Leno has, endorsed the Alice Club's candidate, Scott Wiener, rather than the Milk Club's candidate Rafael Mandelman.

KPFA News reporter Cameron Jones isn't gay, and doesn't live in San Francisco, so he probably doesn't know the difference between Alice Democrats and Milk Democrats, or realize that Leno is an Alicecrat.   And, since the legislation making May 22nd Milk Day was Leno's legislation, Leno's account of how he got Governor Schwarzenegger to sign the bill, after the movie "Milk" became a box office hit, was indeed news.   

However, despite being an openly gay politician benefiting from the ground Harvey Milk laid, Leno is hardly a bearer of Harvey's legacy, having joined his D8 candidate, Wiener, and Senator Dianne Feinstein and State Assemblywoman Fiona Ma in opposing a D.C.C.C. resolution calling on Nancy Pelosi to co-sponsor  H.R. 2404 requiring the Secretary of Defense to submit to Congress a report outlining the government’s military exit strategy of US forces participating in Operation Enduring Freedom, a.k.a., the War in Afghanistan.   Harvey Milk marched against the Vietnam War, and said, at the 1978 Gay Freedom Day Parade:

"What standards? The standards of the rapists? The wife beaters? The child abusers? The people who ordered the bomb to be built? The people who ordered it to be dropped?  The people who pulled the trigger?  The people who gave us Vietnam?  The people who built the gas chambers?  The people who built the concentration camps, right here in California and then herded all the Japanese-Americans into them during World War II.   The Jew baiters?  The nigger knockers?  The corporate thieves?  The Nixons?  The Hitlers?  

What standards do you want us to set?  Clean up your violence before you criticize lesbians and gay men for their sexuality.  It is madness to glorify killing and violence on one hand and condemn the sexual act . . . " 

Leno has also been a devoted advocate for the South Florida-based Lennar Corporation, an industrial homebuilder and predatory lender whose reckless building and lending has in recent years both built and destroyed communities whole all over California and thus played a major role in ravaging both City and State budgets.

Harvey Milk instead stood for neighborhoods and community:

"The American Dream starts with neighborhoods. To sit on the front stoops--whether it's a veranda in a small town or a concrete stoop in a big city--is infinitely more important than to huddle on the living room lounger and watch a make-believe world in not-quite living color. . ." --Harvey Milk, City of Neighborhoods Speech, 1978

More vintage Milk:

"I don't think the American Dream necessarily includes two cars in every garage and a disposal in every kitchen. What it does need is an educational system with incentives. To spend twelve years at school---almost a fifth of your life---without a job at the other end is meaningless." --Harvey Milk, City of Neighborhoods speech, 1978

". . . I'm tired of the conspiracy of silence. I'm tired of listening to the Anita Bryants twist the language and the meaning of the Bible to fit their own distorted outlook, but I'm even more tired of the silence from the religious leaders of this nation who know that she is playing fast and loose with the true meaning of the Bible. I'm tired of their silence more than of her Biblical gymnastics." --Harvey Milk, That's What America Is Speech, Gay Freedom Day Parade, 1978

"The Blacks did not win their rights by sitting quietly in the back of the bus. They got off! Gay people, we will not win our rights by staying quietly in our closets. . . We are coming out! We are coming out to fight the lies, the myths, the distortions! We are coming out to tell the truth about gays!" --Harvey Milk, Gay Freedom Day Parade, June 25, 1978

All quotations can be found in the Appendices of Randy Schilt's biography of Harvey Milk, The Mayor of Castro Street, online in the Google Books version, and a record of Harvey in his voice ad his own words and voice, in the "Hope Speech," on the Youtube, which Milk Club President and District #8 candidate Rafael Mandelman posted to his Facebook page this weekend:

Hulu has made the full length doc, The Life and Times of Harvey Milk, available online. Great film, though still not quite equal to the best of Harvey in his own words:

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