Harvey Milk goes to war
C.W. Nevius on naming a Navy ship after Harvey Milk: "Petty local politics shouldn't ruin a truly meaningful national gesture, which is naming a U.S. Navy ship after gay icon Harvey Milk":
Supervisor Christina Olague, who voted against the idea in committee this week, thinks Milk's objection to the war in Vietnam makes a Navy ship a poor choice. "It's a warship," she said. "I'm not convinced that reflects Harvey Milk values." Even more vehement is gay activist Tommi Avicolli Mecca. "Why not name a bomber after Gandhi?" he asks. "The purpose of the military is to kill people, no matter how we look at it. I know Harvey opposed the Vietnam War, and if he were alive, he would be against the wars we are in now. I think it is inappropriate."
But opposition to the idea from Supervisor Olague and other city progressives isn't about "petty local politics." It's about an essentially anti-American ideology. That's why in 2005 the Board of Supervisors rejected the idea of berthing the USS Iowa, a World War II battleship, in San Francisco. Didn't that war have to be fought? Olague and Mecca don't deign to discuss specific wars because all wars are the same, right? (Olague and Mecca mention Vietnam, but that war ended 37 years ago last month.) And none of them have to be fought, because War is Bad and Peace is Good. What else do you need to know?
Milk was in the Navy for four years, and there's no evidence that he shared that view, since he served during the Korean War. Olague and Mecca are just drafting Milk into their vacuous anti-war cause, which is how Randy Shilts described how some members of the gay community used Milk's name after his assassination:
Virtually every aspect of the San Francisco gay community laid claim to some part of Harvey's legacy. Gay Jews used Harvey to eke out greater acceptance from the city's Jewish establishment, while the Gay Atheist League published a number of essays discussing Milk's status as a martyr to weasel concessions from the local Democratic party, while gay Republicans spent no small effort noting that the Democratic establishment had opposed Milk through most of his political career. Some of Harvey's closer allies found great convenience in the fact that dead leaders can be counted on to say the most quotable things at the most timely occasions. Brochures were frequently dressed up with stirring Harvey Milk quotes written long after the supervisor's demise ("The Mayor of Castro Street," page 346).