It is 9:20 pm and tomorrow morning, first thing, I fly to Kenya to see my best friend and do what I can to help him get his/our dream off the ground. I have not seen him in two years, and I have not been to Sub-Saharan Africa since I left Mozambique in 2002. My mind and heart are filled with so many emotions, that I have chosen to simply store them up and let them spill onto the paprika colored soil of Africa. I will sort it out there, or maybe even when I get back. Although, it probably should be, this is not the post where I extrapolate on the magic of Africa and the amazing people who live there. I hope to write that post in the coming days, on the ground, live so to speak.
I also promised Ari that I would write a first draft of a radio program we are working on about my first kite experience, and how that experience relates to my daughter’s first time clutching the strings of her kite. But my brain is too disjointed and amplified to be able to focus on that.
I am here to write tonight about the only thing I have been able to think about since I watched the movie Milk last night. This will not be a well thought-out or even proofread essay or movie review. It is too late and I am too tired for that. Let me say, however, that Gus Van Zant has made a nearly perfect film and Sean Penn has taken acting to a whole other level. I just want to close my eyes and let the images of that film and the messages that it exposed wash over me and see what comes dribbling out the other end of my fingers.
Although I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, before watching this film I had no idea about the story of Harvey Milk. I will shoulder some of the blame, but I am disappointed that all through my schooling not one teacher thought to teach me about this amazing man. What did I expect however? My public school education got about as revolutionary as the I Have a Dream Speech. I had to learn about Malcom X. Che Guevera, and Ho Chi Minh on my own, so how could I expect that I would be taught anything about this Gay Rights martyr.
As I watched the film, I repeatedly asked myself, what was it about Harvey Milk that set him apart from others, from me? How was this one man able to do so much for so many people, while I waste my time scratching out blog posts that maybe fifteen people read? The answer I came up with was that he was 100% committed to his cause, because his life and happiness depended on his success. There was no failure. No half way. It was an all or nothing game and he played to win. He had no other choice.
Yes he was brave, heroic, and dare I say Intrepid, but more than anything he was relentless and stubborn. He knew that his life was just a bridge toward justice and freedom. His life was not his main concern. The goal was the main concern. And the goal was nothing less than freedom. The freedom to be himself in a society, culture, and world that told him he was wrong. That his natural self was an abomination. He had to prove to the world that he had the right to simply be himself, that no one would ever again force him to be ashamed of who he was.
Never Blend In
…was one of the mottos I remember from the film. How many of us can say that we have enough courage to say fuck the establishment at every turn it tries to make us change ourselves to fit in? Shave that beard, cut that hair, wear the tie, it’s just for the job interview, just to get the loan. While most of us are more than willing to compromise who we are, Harvey Milk refused to be forced back into the closet.
I know this post is raw and needs work, but I wanted to get something up before I left for Kenya. The film Milk and Harvey’s story have changed some integral part in me. I have suddenly changed and grown. There is one scene in the movie where he stands on a wooden box with a bullhorn and says:
I am Harvey Milk and I am here to recruit you.
Well Harvey I am on recruited. I am embarrassed to admit that like most normal people who only play revolutionary, I have chosen to only participate half-heartedly. I do not have the courage to put my own life aside and work for the good of all mankind. I have not been pushed into my corner. But I will do my best to fuck with the machine at every chance I get. I will do my best to be myself at every turn and not allow the machine to dictate who I am. While I am not a homosexual, I want to come out of the any symbolic closets I may have forced myself into over the years. I know this is not even close to your vision, but a fire has been lit and we will have to wait and see where it goes.
I will not allow the forces of ignorance and hate force me to be anyone other than who I choose to be. I will not allow people to berate and vilify others for being themselves. I suggest that any readers of this blog do the same. I have ordered The Mayor of Castor Street and hope to write more on Harvey in the future. In the meantime, thanks for following this disjointed prose for as long as you have.
See this film. Take to the streets. Demand the freedom you so cherish.