Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Harvey Milk Day

One of the open secrets of communication studies is that what goes on on the surface is not always what goes on underneath. “Let’s have lunch” means “I’ve had enough of you and I am in no hurry to see you again.” “How nice to see you” means “We don’t have a lot to talk about so I’m reverting to insincerity.”

Phatic communion, spoken communication that is intended more to share feelings or establish an atmosphere of sociability rather than to communicate facts and ideas, is better known by the colorful synonym, “greasing the wheels.” It’s a curious thing about people that so often they do things for one reason while they tell you they’re doing them for another.

There’s nothing wrong with being nice when you’re out and about. Beats carrying a gun.

Sometimes saying one thing and meaning another is innocent. Sometimes it’s downright crafty. When people name their organization “Focus on the Family” instead of “Get Lost, Homosexual Demons,” for example, they’re trying to hide what they’re really up to. "I have nothing against gay people...I don't care what you do in bed...some of my best friends are...I wouldn't do this if they didn't already have civil rights..." Yada yada. Double talk for "Of all the Bible issues to cherry-pick from - adultery, slavery, killing Canaanites and taking their land - I'm choosing to focus on homosexuality because I can't handle the topic of sex and you guys embarrass me to death."

My partner and I are not ready to get married. We’ve only been together sixteen years and we don’t want to rush into things. So why push so hard for gay marriage when I don’t have a dog in the race? It’s because it pisses me off that the only reason people come up with for not wanting them to marry is that they are not prime-time people. The Bible tells them so, they say. Well isn’t that special. Which is the church lady’s way of saying horseshit.

I was raised in the Congregational Church. When I went to college I got special permission from the Episcopal Bishop of Vermont to take communion in the Episcopal Church, and the reason was there was no Lutheran Church around and I had, by that time, become a Lutheran.

I don’t like a lot of organized religious groups, but I left these three behind not out of animosity but because I simply couldn’t say the lines with conviction any more, and being gay meant I had no reason to stay in for social purposes. Truth is, I still have a lot of admiration for these three protestant denominations and kind of miss the small town church supper crowd.

As it turns out, now that the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America just voted last week to admit gays and lesbians to the clergy, all three of these my-people groups understand Christianity to be not at odds with being gay. How about that?

I almost feel sorry for the born-agains. All those folk who say you have to choose between Jesus and the happy life are losing ground at an accelerating pace. Secularists on the left, moderate Christians on the right. Where’s a bible-thumper to turn?

They’re keeping their gay-bashing skills alive these days by fighting the passage of a bill that would designate May 22 Harvey Milk Day in California. These same folk who sashayed left and allemanded right to insist Prop. 8 had nothing to do with gays – they simply wanted to “respect tradition” by restricting marriage to one man/one woman – are now showing their true colors in fighting the bill because, as Benjamin Lopez of the “Traditional Values” (yeah, right) Coalition puts it, it would “invite a classroom conversation about homosexuality.” That, as we all know, could only lead to incest and beastiality. And possibly dancing.

What a strange world. Gay rights groups are hoping the movie Milk will change Governor Schwarzenegger’s mind this time around. He vetoed a similar bill earlier on.

As many people pointed out to me after seeing that film, Dan White killed Harvey Milk because Milk was influential in persuading George Moscone not to rehire White after he made the stupid move of resigning from the Board of Supervisors. It wasn’t gay animus. At least not directly.

Don’t tell any gay people I said that. They’ll string me up. Harvey Milk is our Martin Luther King. He died for our sins, lives in our hearts, deserves to replace Washington on the dollar bill. Jay Leno, who sponsored the bill last year and again this year in the state legislature, has no doubts about this. “…(H)e literally gave his life so I and others can serve in public office and that every generation of LGBT Californians can pursue their every hope, dream and aspiration.”

As they say in the native tongue, “Oh, puleeeeeeeeeeeze.” His accomplishments can’t be dismissed. He deserves to have his name everywhere and be remembered. But not so much because he belongs on Mt. Rushmore as because those piss ants on the religious right insist on silencing women, keeping sex dirty, replacing the constitution with the ten commandments, and putting gays back in the closet.

We have no choice. I wouldn’t fight so hard for same-sex marriage if it were not so much about same-sex marriage as about gay dignity. I wouldn’t fight for Harvey Milk Day in California if Benjamin Lopez were not such an ass.

I hate cleaning up other people’s slop. But somebody’s got to do it.

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