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Friday, January 2, 2009

Movie Reviews: Milk and Frost/Nixon

History repeats itself 30 years later and two films, Milk & Frost/Nixon, capture the lessons we should be learning. This time, we need to get it right.

Movie Reviews: Milk & Frost/Nixon
By Vesta Copestakes

It’s not common for me to watch movies, but two films drew me to the theater this holiday season because they both received reviews that made me believe they were bringing important parts of our history to film: Milk & Frost/Nixon. I didn’t put the 2 & 2s together until I saw both films that these movies are about the same era in history, 30 years ago, and that they are also both about history repeating itself.

Even though I was young and aware in the mid to late seventies, I don’t think I was as aware as I believed I was at the time. In the case of Milk, I can see that being straight and middle class white, my awareness of profound discrimination against homosexuals was more an abstract injustice. I had experienced racial prejudice and it’s negative impact, but hadn’t seen too much homophobia, mostly because I lived in a very straight world.

Discrimination of any kind has always offended me, but this kind didn’t touch my life. Now that I am older and have many gay friends, I know from experience the profound impact of homophobia. What knocks me over is how the worst offenders are people of Christian faith. I am convinced that Jesus would never approve. My impression of the teachings of Jesus is that he taught us not to judge, but to love all people the way his father had taught Him. How can these righteous people stray so far from the path they insist they are following?

What I saw in Milk was the same battle we just fought over Proposition 8, but then it was Proposition 6 and far more reaching in its discrimination. It was a hate movement designed to segregate a huge part of our population using the tools of fear.

Our Prop 8 is about marriage. That Prop 6 was about every aspect of life where a homosexual would come into contact with the heterosexual world. Ultimately, Prop 6 failed. It was a huge celebration of life and acceptance for so many that lead us to believe much of the battle was over, especially here in Northern California where we thrive on acceptance and tolerance.

Try to imagine a world without homosexuals and you lose huge contributions from the work force, from our economy and from the benefits of their participation in our mutual life. What blew me away the most was the massive support from black churches. I simply have yet to understand how a huge part of our population which has suffered immensely from discrimination, could support discrimination toward another group. Hypocrisy is not strong enough a word. I can’t make sense of that one.

So we became complacent as we grew to see that there are no differences in the love between a man and a woman from the love between a man and a man or a woman and a woman. The Gay Rights movement had become so used to a higher level of acceptance, they didn’t seem to see the battle raging as strongly as it really was. We have much work to do. This one needs to go to the Supreme Court and be challenged as a basic human right in our country. We are the land of equality and justice for all. There are no exceptions to the word ALL

And in the case of Frost/Nixon I was simply elated at the time that Nixon was out of office, bummed that he got off Scott free, but the bottom line was that the war in Vietnam came to an end over time and the draft that so plagued my generation was put to rest. It was the Draft that brought us to the streets in protest of the wrong war. Not that there ever really is a right war. But our war took every young man and pulled him into service whether he believed in the cause or not. Females were free to live. Males were prisoners of the system.

The Gulf and Afghanistan/Iraq wars distinguish themselves as being fought by all volunteer forces, so it’s hard to complain. These young men and women believe in what they are doing and volunteer to do it. But these modern wars are still as wrong as the Vietnam War, and clearly illustrated in the movie, the bombing of Cambodia by Nixon was just as power hungry and based upon a lie as the invasion of Iraq. The very same abuse of power we have witnessed in the Bush administration was the violation of our power structure and government system of which the Nixon administration was guilty.

Nixon got to retire in wealth and comfort rather than die in prison where he belonged. He betrayed our trust, he broke our laws and he was guilty of crimes against humanity. The Bush administration is just as guilty and they, too, will play golf, lecture, live in luxury, etc. until the day they die. At least with Nixon, he had his moment of truth in the famous interview with David Frost. We can only hope the same will be true with Bush, Cheney and the gang. The future will become the present and we’ll find out.

Ultimately, I was impressed with both the quality of these two films and how they portrayed the repetition of history. Sometimes we need to re-live a lesson to learn it. Hopefully, we’ll get it right this time. Two steps forward, one step back, but forward movement none-the-less.

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