“Milk” (And a few thoughts it inspired)

January 3, 2009


“If a bullet should enter my brain, let that bullet destroy every closet door.”

“I know that we cannot live on hope alone, but without it, life is not worth living. And you, and you, and you, gotta give’em hope.”

I finally discovered the one theater within a 4 hour radius showing “Milk.” I now think I have to bump “The Dark Knight” back to the 2nd slot for best 2008 films—Milk is just too good; important, relevant, inspiring, tragic, hopeful, and excellently acted. The entire cast knocks their respective roles out of the park. Sean Penn delivers a performance that matches and at moments surpasses his classic “Dead Man Walking” and “Mystic River” performances. Josh Brolin delivers his other great 08 performance (in addition to “W”). While watching it and reflecting on what I had seen it became obvious that I felt “Milk” to belong with the best and most important and inspiring biopics ever made—”King,” “Malcolm X” and “Gandhi.” The sheer scope of humanity depicted. The eagerness and earnestness, the drive and conviction that Penn’s Harvey Milk possesses. He states repeatedly that it’s not about him or any personal agenda. It’s about the cause, about the movement. He felt thrust into the role he was in–the right person for the job who had to work hard to advance the cause for a better tomorrow. As he spoke near the end of the film (to paraphrase), it’s not just about gays– but blacks, Latinos, senior citizens; all the “us’s” out there that find themselves outside of the mainstream without anyone looking after their best interest.
It’s strange and sad how relevant the same cause is today; in the 70s Milk and his supporters sought to defeat Prop 6, a California ballot initiative that aimed at allowing school teachers to be fired for being gay and of their fellow teachers that supported them to be fired as well. 2008s “Prop 8” is the next round in the same fight, but this time it passed, making all marriages previously legal now illegal in CA. Anita Bryant and her “moral” supporters waged war on homosexual rights in the 70s; today you can catch newer Anita’s waging the same war. Everything old is new; and the same civil rights war is being fought.

Anyway, it’s a remarkable film. Seeing it ties in a lot with a few things I’ve been reading and writing which I’ll post at a later date. Here a bit of these thoughts came out as a response to a friend’s blog on the debate regarding Rick Warren’s selection as minister for the inauguration (for the record I think it’s fine for Warren to pray there, Obama would be hard-pressed to find a minister that would please all of us).

As I’ve pretty much told you when speaking with you, I really do think it’s ignorant to do as Hitchens does and say that a Christian who believes salvation lies in Christ aloe is a bigot. I myself as a Christian do feel that Christ is the way for me and that he is my I AM, my entrance to positive global service that those raised in the Eastern World might find in Buddha or Allah. I do not however feel that thinking Christ alone is the way makes one a bigot. I respect Warren for his poverty stance, his call to a stronger and more proactive church. I do, though, feel that he is missing the point in his stance on homosexuality. I feel that the gay rights movement is our civil rights movement today. I feel we must evolve beyond our current church perceptions to a more inclusive and loving manner–I feel that homosexual relationships should be morally judged on the same level that heterosexual relationships are judged–on monogamy, honesty and equality. That’s why this issue is so touchy. To deny that it is as important as the civil rights movement is to view it with blinders on-religious, social or hereditary blinders. Scripture was misused to condemn minorities, interracial marriage, and to promote slavery. Scripture was used to keep “women in their place” and was misused in highly misogynistic ways. Police have beat blacks just for being black and gays just for being gay. Racists have screamed “Nigger” at blacks and homophobes have screamed “Faggot” at gays to equal hatred. The truth is, I believe Christ would love all gays and urge them to follow him along the same path he urges straight folks. I think he would criticize laws and practices that denigrate homosexuals. I feel he would unconditionally love them and hope they could follow the same moral code he asks all of us to follow. Jesus was a devout Jew who memorized the Torah but sifted it and shed it of its baggage, emphasizing its most important aspects. He gave no indication as to indicate he ever intended any new scripture to replace its holy writings, yet he showed the path through his life and action that brought it into the light. Since the Christian church did add new scripture, should we not today, since we are to be as Christ was, not be able to sift the early church’s scripture to emphasize its most important aspects? Christ subverted traditional wisdom and replaced it with the rule of compassion. He summed up the law with one simple rule: love your god with all your heart, and love your neighbor.” That rule tells me my gay brothers have every right I have. So, those that flinch at Warren’s attitude do so only because they feel he is doing like the otherwise good and moral folks who used inadequate religion to subjugate the African Americans. Christianity must evolve, change and take into account History, Culture, Time and Place.


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