Monday, November 28, 2011

Remembrance of things past

An iconic representation of Harvey Milk

I wonder how many engaged in a round of “do-you-remember-where-you-were-when …?” last Tuesday, the 48th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

I was a couple of months into my senior year of high school at Russell that Friday afternoon when teachers and administrators moved from classroom to classroom, telling students what had happened before we were sent off on subdued bus rides home.

That was another world --- there were no television sets to gather round; I don’t remember a TV in the school building, although there surely must have been.

But the images that have stuck with me played out on a big black and white screen in the living room at home over the weekend and through the state funeral the following Monday.

There were fewer talking heads in those days; television personalities didn’t feel obligated to intrude via persistent voice-overs, trivializing the obvious. The images spoke for themselves. And at night, when the talking was done, the networks broadcast images of the White House lighted against the night-time sky as classical music played in the background.

Imagine something so eloquent happening today.


I doubt anyone would compare Mitt Romney to JFK --- the latter had more charisma in his left index fingernail than the former Massachusetts governor has in his entire shape-shifting chameleonesque persona.

But every time some damnfool Baptist down in Texas (or anyone of any other denomination elsewhere) declares that Romney, a Mormon, isn’t really a “Christian,” it’s tempting to think of Kennedy, of whom similar usual suspects said the same thing --- because he was Roman Catholic.


Sunday was the 23rd anniversary of other assassinations --- those of San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone by ex-supervisor Dan White at City Hall there by the Bay during 1978.

Milk, who since has assumed an iconic status in the LGBT community that is illustrated by the image up top, became in 1977 the first gay man honest about his orientation elected to public office in California.

He was, among many other accomplishments, a leader in the drive to defeat in 1978 what is known as the Briggs Initiative, that would have made mandatory in California the firing of gay teachers and perhaps any other district employees who advocated for gay rights.

His assassin was convicted of voluntary manslaughter rather than murder and eventually released from prison after five years after attorneys told sympathetic jurors that depression had diminished his capacity to kill with premeditation. The inescapable implication was that the deaths of a gay man and a straight ally were somehow not overly important.

The aftermath galvanized LGBT communities, becoming one of the foundation stones beneath the continuing drive for LGBT equality, opposed then as now for the most part by alleged Christians. The more things change …

On a more positive note, Lessons & Carols last evening was lovely, a wonderful candle-lit way to begin the season of Advent and point toward Christmas.

I wish you could have heard Kathy’s cello, backed quietly by Samuel on organ, as it filled St. Andrew’s during “In the Bleak Midwinter” and “Lo, How a Rose e’re Blooming.”

Our little church has excellent acoustics, which makes it a good building to sing carols in, both quiet and triumphant. I think everyone there was moved by the music, the prayers and the spoken lessons, tracking a Christian view of humanity in scripture from the fall through the great mystery of the Incarnation.

And those who stayed after for cider, cookies and conversation were generous --- so the Ministry Center food bank benefitted, too.


Norm Prince said...

Morning Frank

Nov 1963 found me in the barracks of Camp Pendleton when our commander in chief was killed. Nov 1978 found me in foot hills of Northern California when Mr White did his dastardly deed. And last evening found me watching old holiday offerings on the TV.

What I have recently found interesting is how my mind works after reading your blog for some time now. The reading in the Forward Day by Day this morning is a point of this thinking. If you looked at the offering you will know what I mean when I state that your name came to my mind as I read what the priest was talking about. My ties to the red door building is not as strong as yours but my early upbringing offers many memories.

peace - norm

Big Grove Walker said...

I was on this corner when I received the news.