I don't know how in the world the tragic story of Harvey Milk and Mayor Moscone has escaped my attention for so long, but the trailer for Gus Van Sant's new biographical film "MILK" has thrust the historical episode before me.
If you get a chance, you might want to sit down and watch the remarkable documentary, "The Times of Harvey Milk," to familiarize yourself with the modern-day story of a terrible injustice. Part one can be found here.
Anyway, to address the title of this post, the documentary split open a chasm in my humanity and I worry that I may have found the tiny seed of an evil impulse. Before today, I think I can safely say that I have never really hoped for the death of another human being. Even the most cruel tyrants of human history have been too distant to elicit a real emotional response.
When I learned that supervisor Dan White took a loaded pistol and an extra round of ammunition, climbed through a town hall window to avoid security, sneaked into the mayor's office, shot and killed Mayor Moscone, reloaded his weapon, walked to the first elected openly gay official's office and murdered Harvey Milk execution style, even then, my outrage was not profoundly felt.
BUT THEN, when I learned that a 1980's jury found White guilty of voluntary manslaughter rather than premeditated first degree murder, with a sentence of only 7 years and parole, and that he served ONLY 5 YEARS BEFORE HE WAS SET FREE, something dark bubbled up inside me. I was deeply uncomfortable, deeply outraged, and I hoped very strongly for the death of supervisor Dan White. When I learned that he eventually committed suicide, I felt a great sense of satisfaction, secure in the knowledge that a great evil had been purged from existence.
But that is not like me. And the more I think about it, the more I don't like the fact that I actually liked the fact that someone died. Call me naive, call me a bleeding heart, call me whatever, but the power of emotion to celebrate and find solace in violence is deeply disturbing.