Intolerance at the Oscars

While Slumdog Millionaire may have won best picture last night at the Academy Awards, the award for most drama goes to the movie Milk. It's no surprise that the film chronicling the rise of San Francisco politician Harvey Milk was honored by Hollywood this evening. Not only was it an engaging political drama, but Hollywood holds a strong political stake in advancing the gay agenda.

Sean Penn, the righteous fighting liberal, followed the example of previous leftist award winners by making a preachy acceptance speech after winning Best Actor, this time chastising those who voted Yes on California's recent Proposition 8. That proposition, intended to maintain the traditional view of marriage, was described by Penn as "the marriage ban."

Such rhetoric, while securing Penn's prominence as a darling of Castro Street, is likely to do more harm than good for the gay and lesbian community and hinder not enhance future movie-ticket sales for Milk.

As Penn should well know, waving a condescending finger at one's political opponents is not an effective way of winning friends and influencing people. Shaming people, chiding them,  promising that their grandchildren will one day not respect them, are good ways to guarantee that those who don't appreciate your views will only feel more certain of their own opposing convictions.

It's especially shameful that Penn, presumably straight, should take the lead in advancing the cause of gays and lesbians and, inadvertently, despite his best intentions, set back their movement. If anything, Penn only made matters worse.

Equally shameful, and yet more tragic, is how Milk screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, when accepting his award for Best Original Screenplay, marred his emotional plea for understanding of the gay and lesbian struggle. Black, choked up as he was, seemed determined to stress that, prior to moving to California as a boy, his family had lived in a small Mormon town in Texas. Mormon, of course, being code for intolerant.

It's well-documented that the Church Of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints had contributed quite generously to last year's Yes on 8 effort. Their political success, however, has now made them the scapegoat of bullying activists intent on advancing the gay agenda -- despite the results of our electoral process. Like homophobic cowboys terrorizing a gay Matthew Shepard a decade ago in Wyoming, today's gay activists, like many on the left, find comfort in disdaining the minority Mormon population.

Mormons have the right to their own religious beliefs just as gays and lesbians have the right to their own personal practices. Today's Mormonophobia is no more excusable than yesterday's homophobia.

Obviously, Dustin Lance Black, though raised in a Mormon town, has done quite well for himself, regardless of whatever challenges he may have faced. But everyone who eventually succeeds faces challenges, especially in such a diverse country as ours, one populated with so many competing ideologies.

Those on the far left, like their far right nemeses, tend to tolerate everything with which they approve. They take pride in their tolerance, and that pride, unfortunately, and all too often, blinds them of their own intolerance.

Sean Penn and Dustin Lance Black missed a terrific opportunity tonight to advance the cause they both hold dear. Rather than invite their political opponents into their hearts, rather than reach out and invite their foes to see the film both had been honored for creating, they excluded their opponents, insulted their foes, and, exposing their own arrogance, made their own prejudices clear for all to see.

Is that why Harvey Milk died?

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