Pride 2020: Harvey Milk and the Power of Hope

Imagine you live under a government that says who you are is shameful; you are a crime against nature.

Now imagine the courage it takes to stand up to that government and say, I’m proud of who I am.

Photograph of Havey Milk and his Partner Scott Smith in a plaque on Harvey Milk Plaza
A Photo of Harvey Milk and Scott Smith at Harvey Milk Plaza in San Francisco (C) Rob Goldstein

In 1955, when the Navy forced Harvey Milk to resign over ‘questions’ about his sexual orientation, being a homosexual was the worst thing a person could be.

Homosexuality ranked with pedophilia as equal in the public mind, and sodomy was a crime in most States.

Coming Out was dangerous and revolutionary.

Photo from San Francisco's Pride day 2017
Pride 2017 (C) Rob Goldstein

 “If I turned around every time somebody called me a faggot, I’d be walking backward – and I don’t want to walk backward. -Harvey Milk”

Harvey Milk was born May 22, 1930, in Woodmere, New York, to a family of Jewish Lithuanians.

His father served in the U.S. Navy as did his mother, who served as a “Yeomanette” in  World War I.

“As a youngster, Milk listened with his family to radio reports about the Warsaw Ghetto and the plight of Jews in Europe. There was  anti-semitism closer to home as well — nearby towns on Long Island were strongholds for the Ku Klux Klan and the American Nazi Party.” The Essential Jewishness of Harvey Milk

Copy of a Nazi Soldiers fighting rat like Jews.
Fascist movements always demonize immigrants and minorities.

“Jews know we can’t allow discrimination—if for no other reason than we might be on that list someday.” Harvey Milk

In 1972 Milk moved to San Francisco and ran his first campaign for the Board of Supervisors in 1973; he framed gay liberation as part of a fight for the rights of all people.

According to The Advocate,

“[Milk] molded the gay community into a united voting bloc, and his populist agenda—which attracted straight families, working-class voters, and senior citizens—gave him a powerful base.”

He lost his second campaign in 1975, but he established himself as the leading political spokesman for the gay community with strong political allies and a growing activist base.

When friend and ally, Mayor George Moscone appointed him to the city’s Board of Permit Appeals, he became the first openly gay city commissioner in the United States.

“I know you can’t live on hope alone; but without hope, life is not worth living,” Harvey Milk

A Photo from Pride 2015
A Photo from Pride 2015- (C) Rob Goldstein

Milk won his 1977 campaign, and on January 9, 1978, he took his seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

Milk was clear about why he ran for office as an openly gay man:

“It’s not my victory; it’s yours and yours and yours. If a gay can win, it means there is hope that the system can work for all minorities if we fight. We’ve given them hope.”

– Harvey Milk, after winning a seat on the Board of Supervisors in 1977.”

Supervisor Milk introduced the Nation’s first bill to outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed the bill on March 22, 1978, and Mayor George Moscone signed it into law on April 11, 1978.

Harvey Milk spoke of the value of persisting in the fight to achieve the American ideal of equality:

“…we will not win our rights by staying quietly in our closets. … We are coming out to fight the lies, the myths, the distortions. We are coming out to tell the truths about gays, for I am tired of the conspiracy of silence, so I’m going to talk about it. And I want you to talk about it. You must come out.”  Harvey Milk

 

Art by Rob Goldstein
Forever Queer, Clarion Alley 2012 (c) Rob Goldstein

Harvey Milk served as a supervisor for almost 11 months.

On November 27, 1978, Supervisor Dan White assassinated Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone.

“I can’t forget the looks on faces of people who’ve lost hope. Be they gay, be they seniors, be they blacks looking for an almost-impossible job, be they Latins trying to explain their problems and aspirations in a tongue that’s foreign to them. I personally will never forget that people are more important than buildings. I use the word “I” because I’m proud. I stand here tonight in front of my gay sisters, brothers, and friends because I’m proud of you.” Harvey Milk

Harvey Milk is an American hero because he used his passion and his rights to break through a wall of institutional homophobia and caused the United States to become a more perfect Union.

In 2009 the Nation thanked him for it when President Barack Obama posthumously awarded Milk with America’s highest civilian medal, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, with the following citation:

“Harvey Bernard Milk dedicated his life to shattering boundaries and challenging assumptions. As one of the first openly gay elected officials in this country, he changed the landscape of opportunity for the Nation’s gay community. Throughout his life, he fought discrimination with visionary courage and conviction. Before his tragic death in 1978, he wisely noted, “Hope will never be silent,” and called upon Americans to stay true to the guiding principles of equality and justice for all. Harvey Milk’s voice will forever echo in the hearts of all those who carry forward his timeless message.”

The Obama White House Archives

What you get as a citizen of the United States are the tools you need to petition the government for change. The government may or may not listen to you, and if it doesn’t, you get loud.

Photograph of a sign that reads Silence - Death
Silence = Death 2019 (c) Rob Goldstein
A protest sign at the 2019 Women's March that reads our rights are not up for grabs
Our rights are not up for grabs, and neither are we – 2019,  (c), Rob Goldstein


Harvey Milk got loud, and his faith in the power of hope is still changing our lives.

Rob Goldstein 2020

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Guilty of Being Sick: Mentally Ill behind bars

The U.S. mental health system treats all mental illness as short-term, easy to solve problems of ‘behavior’.

Most mental health coverage in the U.S. rules out long-term hospital stays, as well as long-term psychotherapy.

For profit psychiatry took the treatment protocols for substance  abuse disorders and decided to use them for everyone, regardless of diagnosis.

I am the first to concede that practicing mindfulness makes life better in general.

But it is not the first line treatment for illnesses that rob the brain of its ability concentrate and use reason.

People sick enough to become homeless need intensive case management and long-term structured treatment facilities.

The ‘prison industry’ wants to fill that need for ‘long term’  treatment.

“Mental health problems are rampant in local jails, often because the illness was a primary factor in the offensive conduct. The cost of caring for and supervising mentally ill inmates makes them two to three times more expensive to house. Once released, they often stop taking their medications, which lands them in trouble with the law and back behind bars.” NYT FEB. 27, 2017

Mental Illness, untreated Behind Bars

Image of an American Flag behind Barbed Wire
Reprocessed Video Grab from Institutionalized-Mental Health Behind Bars by VICE News

An alarming trend has emerged giving private prison profiteers control of person’s fate for life, not just the term of a prison sentence.

The CEOs who built billion dollar empires as partners in ‘tough on crime’ policies are adapting to prison reforms by re branding themselves ‘treatment’ providers.

They see the collapse of our public mental health system as an opportunity
to expand and profit from long-term psychiatric hospitals, civil commitment centers, and ‘correctional’ treatments.

Correct Care Solutions, formerly known as GEO Care, a spin-off of GEO Group, has deep roots in the private prison industry. Although the company has shifted and changed numerous times over the last few years, CCS currently runs seven “treatment” facilities in Florida, Texas and South Carolina, including five mental health facilities and two civil commitment centers.

See more at: Incorrect Care


(c) Rob Goldstein 2017 All Rights Reserved

I do not own the image

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I Am a Madman

I am a madman and all madmen are me.
The Gods are my calling
Dionysian my stance
This pact is exacting
Between my soul and the Fates
and I will sing no other way
for this is my life
my vocation
my passion
my voice

Rob Goldstein 2015-2019

Poetry: Ascent!

Ascent!

I have climbed

to the very

top

and nothing

will stop

me from

going

higher!

I reach for you

we both

should

be here

but you

have gone

to Hell as I

commanded.

I am Moses

and don’t

give a damn!

Filthy tricks!

You have never

given me

what I need!

So,

still playing tricks,

but

I’m here, now,

see?

And I will never

leave you

alone.

Rob Goldstein 1994-2019