By Jonathon Van Maren
Great explorers. Former presidents. Rebel generals. It is unfortunate that the progressive interest in history has come so firmly harnessed to iconoclasm, or it might even be encouraging. Instead, it took several hurricanes to finally knock footage of angry activists mounting nondescript statues in town squares across the United States of America out of the news cycle. Any reminders of injustice or racism or slavery must go, they announced—and mobs of vandals were apparently just the way to get that done.
And that’s where it will stop. Progressives will never examine their own heroes with wide eyes, because they believe that hurting a few people on the path to a better future is simply inevitable—it’s why there has been no clamor to get rid of the statues of Lenin in Atlantic City, or Seattle, or Las Vegas, or New York City, in spite of the bloodbaths he initiated. It’s why Planned Parenthood still celebrates the legacy of its founder every year with a prestigious award, in spite of the fact that Margaret Sanger would have fit right into today’s alt-right. And it is why Alfred Kinsey is still a respected scholar to the sexual revolutionaries, even though he was a pervert and a sex criminal.
Progressives might want to be more careful. If they truly want to initiate an in-depth examination of celebrated historical figures, a few of their favorites could be first on the figurative chopping block. The statue of gay rights icon Harvey Milk in front of the San Francisco City Hall, for example, would have to go—unless we’re suddenly going to go lax on statutory rape:
Harvey Milk had sex with underage boys, as evidenced by his relationship with 16-year old Jack Galen McKinley, who ran away from home before meeting Milk and ended up killing himself.
“Sixteen-year-old McKinley was looking for some kind of father figure…At 33, Milk was launching a new life, though he could hardly have imagined the unlikely direction toward which his new lover would pull him,” Randy Shilts reported in his Milk biography “The Mayor of Castro Street.”
Having sex with a 16-year old is statutory rape. The age of consent in California is eighteen. California’s current statutory rape law was instituted in 1970.
Milk also urged teenager Gerard Dols to run away from home in Minnesota to live in San Francisco, giving him help on how to do so in a letter that he sent Dols. Dols, who did not end up running away to Milk’s city, made the revelation in a 2008 interview, as conservative writer Matt Barber noted.
“Don’t tell your parents,” Milk told Dols.
That is not the sort of thing that makes it into a Harvey Milk biopic starring Sean Penn. The story of one of the first openly gay politicians and gay rights activists is Oscar-winning material—the story of an older man who courted younger boys is the stuff of illicit pornography. And, as it turns out, the stuff of Harvey Milk’s life story. These facts are fairly well-known—after all, they are detailed in Milk’s biographies. But it doesn’t matter, because Milk was working towards a cause that progressives hold dear, and thus a few statutory rapes can be forgiven and ignored.
Some conservatives have been loudly protesting since the statue-smashing began that to make things fair, we ought to take a look at the cadre of killers and sex criminals on the Left (did you know that the founder of Earth Day murdered and composted his girlfriend?) and maybe take a step back. History is full of rogues and heroes alike, and venting rage at the visages of dead men is not productive and rarely even cathartic. But that will be ignored. Presumably, progressives already know that the heroes of their own Sexual Revolution were often rapists and criminals, and that Communism has ended more lives than any other ideology ever conceived. To the progressives, those causes were worth killing for, and so statutory rapists will be celebrated as martyrs while the statues of men of bygone eras will be rejected because they do not think like us.
For anyone interested, my book on The Culture War, which analyzes the journey our culture has taken from the way it was to the way it is and examines the Sexual Revolution, hook-up culture, the rise of the porn plague, abortion, commodity culture, euthanasia, and the gay rights movement, is available for sale here.