Milk, the man

by Rob Tiller

    Milk, the movie, was moving and inspiring.  Harvey Milk was a gay activist in the 1970s who got elected to the San Francisco board of supervisors and was assassinated.  As played by Sean Penn, Milk is funny, sweet, creative, and brave.  

    Early in the movie, on his fortieth birthday, Milk tells a new lover that he’s never done anything in his life he’s proud of.  He had lived the life of a reasonably successful, closeted businessman in New York City.  He changed that, by moving to San Francisco, opening a camera shop in the gay district, and becoming a community organizer.  He succeeded in winning election to the city counsel, and in being a leader that made a difference.

    The movie helps us understand better the point of the gay rights movement.  Even those of us who don’t especially like watching men kiss can see why people would get angry when police arrest them for no apparent reason, or when violent hate crimes against them are not prosecuted.  There are parallels with the civil rights movement, though I wouldn’t want to push them too far.   To judge from the movie, Harvey Milk was never aspiring to sainthood.  But he worked for human rights.  

    The U.S. has come a ways in its attitude towards gays since Harvey Milk’s day.  There are no longer routine police roundups of gays.  In some places and some social strata, there’s a considerable degree of acceptance and openness.  But gay bashing still exists, and  the gay marriage fight is a depressing reminder that there’s still a lot of prejudice.  Milk the movie should open a few more eyes and hearts.  

     it could make a few  people ask the Milk question:   have I not done anything in my life for which I’m truly proud?  And maybe a few of those people will transform their lives, and help transform the world.