December 11, 2010

Lt. Dan Choi: The Love, The Language, The Legacy.

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“If everyone—black, white, everyone—doesn’t own civil rights, it’s a failure for all…politicization pits groups against each other, and that is what is intended when you see cynical politicians. They devise methods and procedures to turn groups against each other.”

At what cost should we, as Americans and citizens of a global community, accept a certain standard of equality and freedom?  Should we accept equality and freedom as a gift or a right? Should we turn a blind eye to the slow, silent mental suffering of a few, if we (however we are) are rewarded with illusion of equality and freedom?  Should we let small societal norms of discrimination slip through the cracks of a civil rights movement for the sake of a greater victory, one in which most people benefit?

Or, should we stand together in the desert of inequality where the supply of justice runs dry so that we can all take a step together towards the same direction and towards a certain lush land that guarantees everyone a sip of our own inherent rights? Should we do that with the cost of time and elongated suffering?

These are questions that unexpectedly haunted me and fellow writer Shannon McCoy after a talk and an interview with Lt. Dan Choi.  We were at first quite charmed and inspired by this man whose main message was love.  The power and passion he owned and shared was like a symphony whose sounds echoed. There is no doubt that his love is true, and that his voice has helped the gay rights movement gain a certain fuel to their fire.

But, after we listened with nodding heads and smiles to Choi and his affirmation of Martin Luther King Jr.’s belief that we as a network of human experiences and struggles must work together to gain equality for everyone, we all of a sudden felt cheated.

We agreed with Choi and MLK Jr., but did Choi agree with his own words?

A young lady during the question section asked Choi to address his derogatory statement about Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who Choi called a “pussy” that “bleeds every month” due to Reid’s hesitations on repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.  The lady found this offensive.

It’s unfortunate for me to report that he did not respond in the way he had exemplified throughout his talk. He simply stated that his background as a member of the military had instilled that kind of language in him, and that frankly, language is misogynistic and only certain words truly evoke specific feelings and references. He then ended by apologizing saying, “I am truly sorry if this offended anyone.”

What Choi spoke of were of a few sad facts.  There is no doubt that the word “pussy” is thrown around in a military environment, and that language is misogynistic.  Pussy has a connotation that “asshole” or “dick” cannot fulfill.

But, to reference MLK Jr. again, “the ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people.”  The acceptance of this man-made nature of language and surrender to the military environment that brought him up and eventually rejected him was not just a disappointment and incredibly ironic, but very harmful to the gay right’s movement and those that equally face oppression.


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