Imagine a US Senate with a Senator Milk instead of a Senator Feinstein. Go ahead, take your time. I’ll wait . . . it’s a vision to be savored, not rushed.

OK, you’re back? Where were we . . . 

In Harvey Milk’s campaigns for office in San Francisco, his stump speech and his conversations kept coming back to one word, a word sadly missing from much of our current political debate on Capitol Hill, a word so powerful it scares the GOP to death:

Hope

Here’s the tail end of that speech:

And the young gay people in the Altoona, Pennsylvanias and the Richmond, Minnesotas who are coming out and hear Anita Bryant on television and her story. The only thing they have to look forward to is hope. And you have to give them hope. Hope for a better world, hope for a better tomorrow, hope for a better place to come to if the pressures at home are too great. Hope that all will be all right. Without hope, not only gays, but the blacks, the seniors, the handicapped, the us’es, the us’es will give up. And if you help elect to the central committee and other offices, more gay people, that gives a green light to all who feel disenfranchised, a green light to move forward. It means hope to a nation that has given up, because if a gay person makes it, the doors are open to everyone.

 (YouTube excerpt here)

The alternatives to hope offered by the GOP are all too often fear ("be afraid of Teh Scary Brown/Gay/Poor people!"), callous indifference ("all you need to do is tug on those bootstraps a little harder"), denial ("what problem?"), or despair ("the problem is too big"). Sorry, but life is too short to live filled with fear and indifference and despair — and more and more people are catching on to that, Lou Dobbs, Glenn Beck, and Larry Kudlow notwithstanding.

I never knew Harvey, but I know a lot of folks like him — folks who give hope to those on the margins. An old speech teacher who saw the closeted gay kid, and helped him stand tall. Two gay ushers, quietly enjoying their 40 year relationship and gladly welcoming all kinds of people on the margins to their church. A lesbian nurse, who astounds homophobic patients her compassion. People who run soup kitchens, who teach immigrants about the US, who provide legal services to those without resources. Day in and day out, they work to give people hope.

And then there are the teens at Shawnee Mission East High School, who stood proudly against bigotry when it came to visit. That’s them in the YouTube above, produced by Thomas Hadden and Kyle Little.

This is Pride weekend in many parts of the US, and proudly embracing a vision of hope is a grand and glorious thing. Every Pride parade is evidence that Harvey’s vision of hope is contagious. Hope is spread by human contact, by rejecting fear and isolation in favor of compassion and celebration. 

Imagine a Pandemic of Hope, spreading even to the halls of the Capitol.

But for this, you don’t have to imagine. All you have to do is look around, or maybe open a book, and then join in spreading the hope around. It might take a lot of phone calls, but sooner or later even Congress will get infected.