11/28/2008

A Somber Thanksgiving

Harvey MilkImage via WikipediaI'd meant to post yesterday for Thanksgiving but time got away from me. I was making gingerbread for a Thanksgiving dinner we shared with out dear friends Sandy and Jeff and then spent the afternoon with them and their family. After that I had to run a show for Parazona on BlogTalkRadio so by the time I settled down enough, I was simply too tired.

So, today, I'll post my "Thanksgiving" thoughts.

November 27, 2008 marked the 30th anniversary of the murder of Harvey Milk. Milk was on the Board of Supervisors for San Francisco and one of the nation's first openly gay elected officials. He came to national attention at a time when Anita Bryant and her forces of ignorance and intolerance were running rampant across much of the nation from their base in Florida.

Harvey Milk came out late in life. He was around 40 years old before he finally kicked the closet door open and relocated from New York to the Castro District of San Francisco with his partner. He opened a camera store and began to run for office. After several unsuccessful attempts he was elected in 1977 to the Board of Supervisors for the city.

At the time San Francisco was in flux. The city was split between a working class police force noted for their intolerance of the growing gay community and a decidedly liberal and progressive political structure trying to make the city more open and welcoming.

On November 27, 1978, Milk was murdered along with Mayor Muscone by Dan White, a disgruntled supervisor who had resigned his seat in part over the direction the city was headed. After he cooled off he decided he wanted his seat back and was told it wasn't that simple. White slipped through a window in City Hall with a gun and killed Muscone and Milk at point blank range.

San Francisco saw a series of riots over the event. While White was arrested the police in the city were sympathetic to him and even openly wore their support of White and his murderous act on T-Shirts. Prosecutors failed to challenge the famous "Twinkie Defense" in which White's attorney asserted the murders were the result of his binging on junk food in the days before his crimes. The jury which excluded minorities and gays bought the defense and let White off with a reduced charge of manslaughter. He would serve only 5 years for the double murder and be relocated to Los Angeles after his release. In 1985 he committed suicide in his sister's garage by carbon monoxide poisoning.

This year a new film hit the theaters starring Sean Penn as Harvey Milk. The movie has met with critical acclaim at a time when LGBT people are reeling from the Proposition 8 vote that stripped them of the existing right to marry in California.

Harvey Milk's legacy continues. Famously he recorded a message before his death in which he said: "If a bullet should go through my brain, I hope it goes through every closet door in America." Milk was a strong believer that only through being out would LGBT people achieve any equality and measure of respect and legal protection.

So, this thanksgiving I give thanks for people like Harvey Milk who heroically broke new ground for all of us. He's often forgotten by young LGBT people whose memory of the 70's is more likely to include Abba than politics.

Yet, each of us know people in our lives who have helped us become who we are today. Some are fellow LGBT citizens and others are those who have been with us every step of the way in a world that still would like to deny us even the most basic Civil Rights.

So, today, I'll give thanks not just for Harvey Milk but also for:

My partner Michael who restored my faith in love and understanding. He showed me the depths of love and committment. In the past 11 years he's been by my side every step of the way. On the night of my liver transplant when I was too weak to stand he put me in a shower and washed away the poisons collecting on my skin because my liver could not process them. He memorized dozens of medications and made sure I took each as I was supposed to after my transplant. He slept on the floor of my room and on the floor of waiting rooms so that I was never alone during the process. He played his guitar and sang for me as I recovered in the hospital when I couldn't sleep. He did all this despite fighting cancer himself and being weak and in pain.

My brother Edd who taught me it was OK to be gay. He took me under his wing as a young gay man and made sure I remained safe in a world where gay teenagers are constantly at risk for violence or disease. He taught me the value of being an individual and how being gay did not mean being ashamed or lonely. He gave me the courage to stand up for myself and my fellow LGBT people. My brother came of age before Harvey Milk. He knew the era when gay bars were raided by police and gay men and women shaken down for cash or beaten by cops. He knew how violent the world could be if you're gay and he was one of those who gave us the courage and drive to begin to make those changes that we still fight for today.

My sister Peggy who despite what her churches have told her over the years about her gay siblings has refused to believe it. She has always been the ultimate "big sister" taking care of me whenever I have stumbled in life. I am fortunate to be much younger than my siblings and because of that have a "Sissy" who is as much a mother as a sister. When our own parents passed away her strength and love helped all of us, despite being adults, cope with that singular loss in a close Southern family.

My friends Joyce, Larry, Sarah and their families in South Carolina. Delivering newspapers for a living is not an easy business. Due to the persistent prejudices in our small Southern town, Michael could not make a go of teaching music as he'd done in the past. So, he ended up delivering hundreds of newspapers 7 days a week 365 days a year for almost 10 years. Joyce, Larry and Joyce's mother, Sarah also delivered papers for a living due to disability and retirement. Over time they became our second family. We shared many holidays and special occassions with them and to this day our bond is more than just "friends." When we lost our home after all the medical problems they were right there with us helping us move our belongings and making sure we didn't become distraught. During Michael's treatment for cancer Joyce filled in so I could be with him as much as possible.

My friends Sandy and Jeff here in Arizona. When we left South Carolina I thought I would never find anyone as wonderful as Joyce and her family. One of the very first people I met in Arizona was Sandy and her husband Jeff. Sandy was a member of the paranormal group I joined and immediately I felt a bond with her. Over the past 10 months she has become like a sister to me. We shared our Thanksgiving with them at their home this year. Recently, when I was having the insurance issues, Sandy and Jeff pitched in to make sure I had medication. I can't imagine life here without them and look forward to our frequent visits and our "Horror Movie Fest" that we instituted recently. Shining people and the light of love in a sometimes dark world.

To Dave, my donor whose selfless act has allowed me to continue to share in the love of all these wonderful people over the past almost 2 years. I never met you, but am thankful there are people in the world whose love knows no bounds.

All my friends at SPI and online. I've met some incredibly wonderful people over the years thanks to the Internet. Some I've met, but most I know only through email, blogs, or community groups. All of them are dear and I appreciate their love and support. So, here's to all my friends at SPI with whom I hunt ghosts and my friends from near and far: Ken at Spooked!, Cullan Hudson author of Strange State, Ro Abreau from Louisiana, Jimmy from South Dakota, Dethmama of Dethmama Chronicles, Insurance Guru who also writes there, and Paddy from Canada (Go raibh maith agat!).

Finally, I'd like to say thank you to two very special online friends over the years and a "thank you" to the folks of Connecticutt who defeated an anti-gay measure this year. Thanks to Bill and Kent for all the great blog posts, the great discussions between our blogs over the years and for being a symbol of the stability and love between two people. After being together for decades, my two friends will finally be able to legally marry now. Congratulations guys!

And thank you... for taking the time to read this. Pause not just today (or yesterday) but every day to say thank you to the people you love and even those who tax your patience. We're all in this together and everyone has a role to play.
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1 comment:

Ken Summers said...

And thank you, Buck, for being one of the few thinkers left on earth whom I have the pleasure of knowing. For being someone who I may at times disagree with, yet it never ends badly and I always step away with another thought to ponder.

Of course, a debt of gratitude goes out to Milk for all he did in life. I'll be lining up to see the movie soon and hopefully it will do him justice. Of course, I have to thank him for something else as well: giving me the 32nd chapter for my upcoming book.

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