Remembering Harvey Milk

There’s a bit of a nostalgia thing going on in our country, particularly among Trump voters. The nostalgia holds that in fairly recent memory everything used to be right with our country, unlike now when people with brown and black skin demand that their lives matter, women think our place is anywhere, transgender people think they know best where to go to the bathroom, and young gay men who are murdered like Matthew Shepherd are honored by being interred in Washington’s National Cathedral.

You have to be a certain age to remember the stunning murder of San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk in 1978. Milk was killed by a former colleague on the Board of Supervisors, Dan White. There are lots of LGBTQ elected politicians now, but not then. Milk was a rare bird, an ebulliently, openly gay man elected to the Board of Supervisors by gay and straight voters alike. Diane Feinstein was a colleague, and there on the day Milk was murdered along with Mayor George Moscone.

Milk was and is a martyr of the gay rights movement; a memorial is being held for him, some 40 years after his death. I have no doubt it will be well-attended. I remember seeing on TV the parade of heartbroken candlelight marchers who took to the streets after Milk’s death.

I have no desire to go back to that earlier, mythic time of the 1950’s, ’60’s, and 70’s. In my mother’s Irish Catholic family, the assaults of her alcoholic, abusive father were sanitized by the phrase “Pop’s spells”. When my father died in 1959, any pension benefits he might have accrued at DuPont were lost when the company moved south and he didn’t go. My mother returned to work as a secretary, and women at her level got no pension at all.

I could go on, but you get the idea. The nostalgic era that Trump voters seek to recover was good for middle class and affluent white straight Christian men. The rest of us would rather move on.

Rest in peace, Harvey Milk.

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