Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Hope, Harvey Milk and aspies

 Recently I was watching a DVD of the film ‘Milk’, about Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected public official in the USA. It’s a great movie, and I’d recommend it to anyone. But what particularly struck me, near the end, were the words that Harvey had recorded on tape, to be played ‘in the event of my assassination’. (Which of course, is precisely what happened.) Anyway, this is what he had to say –
“I ask for the movement to continue, because it’s not about personal gain, it’s not about ego, it’s not about power. It’s about the ‘us’s’ out there. Not just the gays but the blacks and the Asians, the seniors and the disabled. The ‘us’s’. Without hope, the ‘us’s’ give up. And I know you can’t live on hope alone. But without hope, life is not worth living. So you, and you, and you, you got to give them hope. You got to give them hope.”

You got to give them hope. Back then, young (and not so young) gays – and lesbians, and blacks, and all the minority groups - were killing themselves, because they had no hope. Sometimes, they still do. But there’s another group who, unknown to many, have also had a high suicide rate. I mean those on the autistic spectrum. I’ve felt desperate enough myself at times – if I didn’t, it was because of some basic inhibition against it in my nature, rather than because my life suddenly looked like it was going to change for the better.

But it’s not just about suicides, I realized. It’s about what kind of world we want to live in, what kind of values we live by, what kind of people we want to be. Do we want a world in which every person’s human rights are respected? Do we believe every human being is equal, worthy of respect, worthy of being treated like a human being, regardless of what race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, physical disability, mental illness, developmental disorder or neurological difference they have?

Or do we want a world of division, of hatred, of prejudice, of judging and separation, of ‘apartheids’ of all kinds? Do we want a world where people are treated as ‘lesser than’ and abused by individuals or ‘the system’, simply because they are ‘not like thee and me’? Because something about them – whatever it is - is different? Those who have studied history have only to look to Nazi Germany or South Africa, to know where that ultimately leads.

It’s not necessary to join any political or social movements to be a decent person. You simply have to recognise the basic equality of all human beings. Ultimately, in my eyes, this is a spiritual principle, as all humans are beloved equally by The Divine Power, but you don’t have to be a conscious believer in God either to do it. You simply have to choose – do you go for divisions between people, and all the hatred, prejudice and oppressions that follow on from that, or do you go for inclusion and reaching out to those ‘others’?

What kind of person do you want to be? What kind of world do you want to live in? That’s the real question. It’s your choice.

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