Would Harvey Milk, MOF, survive media scrutiny today?

Posted 15 August 2009 by
Harvey Milk
Harvey Milk filling in for Mayor George Moscone for a day in 1978. (Daniel Nicoletta, retrieved from Wikipedia on 15 August 2009 under GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2)

This past week was an interesting. It started with me asking my partner to put Milk on his Netflix cue so we could watch it.

Why didn’t I see such an important movie while it was in the theaters? I rarely watch movies in theaters anymore. Some recent exceptions are:

  • Star Trek–It is a matter of faith and worship.
  • The Lord of the Rings trilogy–Not seeing this epic on the big screen would have meant missing so much.
  • Brokeback Mountain–I made sure I wore my cowboy boots and western jacket to see this with my partner at a suburban Lynnwood, Washington, theater. There were a few shocked looks from those waiting in line for the next movie when we left.

Except for compelling reason, I find that cheaper refreshments, floors that aren’t sticky, no disturbances, and the ability to stop the movie if needing a restroom break help the small screen to win out over the big screen.

After innocently asking my partner to add Milk to his Netflix cue, I discovered Barack Obama was going to give Harvey Milk the Medal of Freedom–the nation’s highest civilian award–posthumously this week. My first reaction was that it was good that Milk was already requested, since requests for this movie were going to spike. My second reaction, which happened unexpectedly while watching the actual presentation of Harvey Milk’s Medal of Freedom to his nephew, was tears. I did not realize how much this recognition of Harvey Milk was going to mean to me.

Later this week there was a bit of political kabuki theater. US Rep. Rick Larsen spent a large amount of time opposing those who are using lies as their weapon in the health care debates.

On Thursday evening, I finally saw Milk. It was very moving.

The only real problem I have with the movie was including a suggestion of an unsubstantiated theory about a possible motive by Dan White for committing the double murder. That is, Dan White may have been repressing his true sexual orientation. All depression isn’t from being a closet case.

Other than that, the level of detail and accuracy of the truth surrounding the events (not necessarily the facts of what actually happened) shown in the movie was outstanding.

A thought occurred to me after watching it. The movie correctly showed that Harvey Milk aligned with the Teamsters about non-union Coors beer. In making this alliance, Milk and his inner circle did not hold a big group process exercise of everyone in the Castro to raise awareness. Instead, Milk and his inner circle forced the gay and straight bars in the Castro area to remove Coors beer. In return, the Teamsters kept their a promise of allowing openly gay men to receive assignments as drivers from the hiring hall.

It was a case of the means justifies the ends.

Through the making of this and other alliances in the 1970s, Milk eventually won his supervisor’s seat, along with making gains made for the community.

If a community activist forced the removal of non-union product in return for a favor from a union in 2009, how long do you suppose it would take the US Department of Justice to file RICO charges? You could say this reality is no different from Thomas Jefferson—the author of the Declaration of Independence—owning slaves.

It made me think about how far we have come since the 1970s. And what we expect as acceptable behavior.

(Some rewording changes to the original post made the evening of Saturday, August 15, 2009.)

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