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January 31, 2008 / chrisisgross

learning more about the history of the city

everyone knows about the hippie culture that permeated the culture here in the 60’s and it is generally assumed that this is what has shaped the city. to some extent it has, but in reality one of the major shapers of the city as it is now is harvey milk.

this is a thesis that i am presenting based on my observations. what started this idea was watching some of the filming of the movie that is being shot in the castro, starring sean penn and directed by gus van sant, maybe being called milk.

i went over there yesterday to take some pictures. it was very difficult and the shots i took were awful so i am not including them. while i was walking home i began to think about the importance of someone like harvey milk. believed to be the first openly gay person elected to political office his ability to catalyze the movement in the castro at first and then the entire city has as much to do with the culture of san francisco than the radical free love hippies.

in the 70’s the city was not the bastion of liberalism that it is now(sidenote bush was in the area yesterday, but has not been inside the city limits since he was elected president) the city was a conservative stronghold and many of the hippies had moved to the marin headlands were it was cheaper(not anymore). harvey milk’s election and the eventual assassination of him and george moscone by dan white, ending in the white night riots made the movement to be out and open in san francisco a reality for many. it is this legacy of standing up for what you believe in and for who you are that is still prevalent in the city.

this legacy allowed for writers like armistead maupin to write the serial, tales of the city, in the chronicle and for people to accept the story as that of a human and not that of a gay man. people were being allowed to be who they wanted to be and not what they were expected to be.

i believe that it is this version of liberalism that is alive in the city with some of the vestiges of the hippie spirit guiding it. the hippies of haight-ashbury are the first icons of the city for most people when they think of san francisco, but the lasting icon in the city is harvey milk. it was no longer us vs. them; it was us and you or just us. everyone wants to be loved and accepted, it does not matter who you are or what you believe, you have that right.

it is this form of acceptance that i find here; not free love, but free to be.

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2 Comments

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  1. Jake / Feb 1 2008 7:20 am

    If you haven’t already, check out The Times of Harvey Milk http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0088275 – a 1984 documentary about him. I watched it a little while ago, and it’s very moving.

  2. chrisisgross / Feb 1 2008 11:08 am

    thanks for the movie it is entering the netflix queue. also a side note: my library is the harvey milk branch in the castro.

    didn’t really know who he was when i got here, but i really think that he is a heroic figure. though with any heroic figure there is some controversy like his outing of dan sipple who saved gerald ford’s life.

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