Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Milk of Human Kindness

Went with Wosog and Gdog to see the brilliant film "Milk" yesterday. Sean Penn's performance was breathtaking as Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man to achieve public office in the US. Harvey Milk has a pretty large Wikipedia entry even though I, and I suspect most Brits, had never heard of him before now. Scanning through it, it seems the film was a pretty accurate portrayal of his life, though I believe he had a reputation for being bad tempered that was not reflected in the screenplay. Acceptance of gay people has come a long way since then, in the UK and the US, but the Internet Move Database Entry on the film still recounts someone's experience of watching the film in a cinema where the audience cheered when Milk was shot and booed the film at the end. I suspect ignorance and bigotry will, sadly, always be with us.

The dramatisation of Milk's success gives the achievement of relatively minor public office almost the feeling of a presidential race. Barack Obama's success in actually gaining the presidency is several orders of magnitude more impressive. It carries at least as great a significance for the non-whites of America as Milk's accomplishment did for his gay constituents. It is important to remember that, although Obama achieved 365 electoral votes versus McCain's 173, only 53% of the electorate voted for him. Some members of that 53% are even less happy about having a black man in the White House than that cinema audience were about Milk's lifestyle.

America has a sad history of assassinations, and I fervently hope that Barack Obama survives to enjoy the fruits of his success....