Throwback Thursday: Harvey Milk Assassination: Nov. 27, 1978
Today is a special day, there is no doubt about it -- a day of gratitude and thanksgiving for all the people, events, and factors that have lead to the point we are today. As we sit around the banquet table later tonight to savor the food in the company of those we cherish, we must also recognize that there are others who have touched us indirectly in a past life.
November 27, 1978 was a day of mourning for San Francisco. Two flames of hope and of progress were extinguished. Wednesday marked the 35th anniversary of the assassinations of Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk by ex-Supervisor Dan White.
We know that Thanksgiving is meant to be a time of joy and nostalgia, but acknowledging these murders creates a vital reflection of their contributions -- that can be seen in today's society.
Today's Throwback Thursday is going to be different. Social media sites like Facebook and Instagram will be full of euphoric photos and reminiscences similar to Norman Rockwell paintings -- saturated with glee and rose-colored hues. Instead of poking fun or exhibiting the happens of the good old days in this weekly series, we wanted to highlight the day that created a rift in the S.F. social movement. As is a standard Thanksgiving norm, we will ponder and offer commentary of the past and how we have, hopefully, changed for the better.
The assassinations changed San Francisco -- a forced awakening within the city. Homophobia is real and hasn't been eradicated, nor will it ever be, but what did change was society's treatment of those who dare to be different and challenge the rigid-and-restrictive boundaries of hetero-normative culture. Homosexuality was now out, on a national scale, and it could never be relegated to the obscure depths of the banishment closet. Being homosexual didn't mean that individuals who love those of the same sex were sexual deviants or mentally ill. It meant they were people with basic human emotions and desires for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Harvey Milk demonstrated that homosexuals also aren't intellectually inept or politically weak. Milk was the first openly gay man to be elected to a public office and although, this may not seem as shocking today, 35 years ago he broke a glass ceiling. Gays and lesbians acquiring position of power need not be social outcasts anymore. Change was coming and government became closer to representing different segments of the diverse population in existence. But more importantly, being true to who you are and what you believe was permissible and needed, even in the face of adversity. Integrity had to be practiced in daily life and not behind closed doors. Gayness became an attribute of beauty and uniqueness, no longer a reason to be chastised by antiquated mentalities and dogmas. In short -- LGBT people could just live: live in a city and exist, with no regrets nor reprimands.
City Hall became an altar of tragedy that day, today that caused the city to shed tears of agony and pain. Two heroes and community role models were taken away from their paths, violently and abruptly -- anything could have been possible; Harvey Milk being supervisor is just one event. But the Beaux Arts-inspired building has also been the stage of some of the most important, uplifting milestones of San Francisco's collective memory: from the celebration of the historic ruling's against same-sex marriage to Bat Kid saving Gotham City to the San Francisco Giants wining the World Series in 2010 and 2013.
But even as we exalt and praise the accomplishment of this man, we need to be grateful everyday, not just one day a year or during festivity commemorative days, such as Harvey Milk Day (May 22), and Pride. Our thanks needs to be daily. Moreover, we cannot make this about just MIlk, for he did not act alone, he had the support of a community that was made up of individual members, many of whom never received recognition for their perseverance and spirit.
Give thanks to those unsung heroes, not through elaborate gestures or trite rituals like thank you cards and mementos, but through kind words and acts of generosity. Ultimately, the best way to show our gratitude and appreciation for those who dared to think differently, is to be messengers of hope by doing and acting for a better today and tomorrow.
"The only thing they have to look forward to is hope. And you have to give them hope. Hope for a better world, hope for a better tomorrow, hope for a better place to come to if the pressures at home are too great. Hope that all will be all right. Without hope, not only gays, but the blacks, the seniors, the handicapped, the us'es, the us'es will give up." ~Harvey Milk