Dan Choi

Last active
3 years, 3 months ago
  • Aaron, as we approach the end of our time here on the Book Salon, I want to thank you for your service to our country, and your fighting spirit, which clearly lives on! Thank you, FDL!

  • Timing is seemingly critical in retrospect, but without the push from the outset, no “tipping point” would ever happen. This is a big mistake for activists who wait until the perfect storm to get involved. Riding it out until something better comes along is the anthesis of activism, although it is a skill well manipulated by politicians. When our activism strategy is only relegated to whip counts, political pollster-ing and cocktail parties, we lose the grassroots edge. That’s not grassroots, that’s astroturf at best. In order to survive, a movement needs tactics employed continually as well as strategic “tipping points.” As Sun Tzu said about tactics/strategy: “Strategy without Tactics is the longest route to victory; Tactics without Strategy is the noise before defeat.” But the Strategic “tipping point” comes about because of tactics, and I believe one can be both a tactician and a strategist. One can be both, and insider and outsider. The true danger is when either kind of activist relegates themselves to the one identity.

  • Aaron, can you talk a little bit about the “Faustian” dilemma (final paragraphs of Chapter 10 “Limitations of the Strategy”) posed by the gay movement adopting military service as a platform for our movement? It is clear that many in the community have lamented the militarization of our goals and message. What do you think about ROTC on campus? (Both in terms of the militarization aspect and the current Transgender exclusion in the US military.)

  • It wasn’t without its points of deep consternation. I would be remiss if i did not acknowledge the painful schism this caused within the hearts of many military folks, who REVILED the use of the uniform in radical protest. But we had to, or nobody would see our point. Going limp in the November protest was also critical in dramatizing the discrimination and piercing the message of our willingness to fight, and never disappear. The visuals served not only as a political prodding, but as a rallying cry to the community on a spiritual and cultural level as well. I know that many military folks have a hard time with activists. We call activists by different names in Iraq, namely: “terrorist.” So the transition from military to activism was not an easy one. Palm Center pushed these soldiers-turned-activists into the fray and with tremendous success. I also attended the “Radical Minds Retreat” at the “Rosa Parks” Highlander Center in January 2010. The whole time asking myself, “What the hell have I gotten myself into now?” But as I think about it more, there is no conflict between activism and military service, at all. Through military experience, I learned discipline and dogmatic perseverance which influenced my activism. Through activism I realized the reason why we serve at all: to protect freedom. So in short: my being a soldier made me abetter activist, and my being an activist made me a better soldier.

  • Rep. Lewis is such a hero, I had the chance to meet him at the Bill Signing, and if there is any living example of confrontation that succeeds, it is personified by him. And it really warms my heart to know that he gets it as far as the egalitarian construct, his support of the group is very meaningful indeed. Through that kind of example, we can really learn to trust the principles of consensus decision making and equality, even when it is scary or makes us scratch our heads at first glance.

  • Aaron, GLenJo you are too kind. Please remember the erudite words of one of my heroes, Fannie Lou Hamer who said: “Oh Honey, Courage is just a lack of options.” When your back is up against the wall, you will also display courage, for we have no other choice. When our convictions fuel our daily decisions, we will see that courage is actually not that difficult, for the righteous convictions always compel us in one direction, without compromise or escape route.

  • Knights Out has not only grown in membership, but it has made inroads with Wet Point officials. THe key issue was not the size of our group, but our ability to communicate with the “old grads” (many are still “dealing” with integration of races, religions, and women!) But, as you can see form the website the group also serves as a platform and lifeline for many cadets and officers, as well as civilians, who think they, even in the post-repeal world) are the only gay person int heir immediate area. That is the (often subversive) intent of a group like Knights Out. Not the size, but how you use it!

  • Thanks for the clarification. But the issue of whether marquee spokespersons should be able to bend rules of a community is indeed an unspoken lesson of the DADT movement as well. I readily admit the TV work I ddid offered me privilege and amplification that I would not normally be afforded. In fact, many in the community reviled the “media whore” qualities of my journey. At first I felt guilty about it. All I wanted to do was go back to the army where I was just another one of the Joes (and Janes), who just happened to be gay. Many told me the role I took on was more important. Still, it is important to take a look at the balance between perception of privilege, as the arguments for postponing Rep. Lewis’ speech or bending the rules of egalitarian protocol was really the issue in that situation. It’s a tough call.

  • “OUT” legally… I know a few who have graduated, and many knew they were gay. What will be interesting to see is a wedding ceremony at the cadet chapel. A recent directive allows it in states (USMA West Point, NY…, USMMA King’s Point, NY, USCGA New London CT) where marriage is legal.

  • One month ago, I went to the army recruiter and noticed the order repealing DADT posted on the desk of one of the sergeants. SInce I am trying to go back as enlisted (not officer) there is no big hurdle I have to jump to get back in. It is difficult to go back as an officer (somewhat) because the commission must technically be approved by politicians. THere is no official Procedure for reinstatement that I know of. Many concerns remain: if an officer discharged for instance, worked security or FBI/CIA work, then wants to go back, will that experience factor into the rank of reinstatement? These are simple questions, that our country has figured out before (especially in recalling officers for war) and they could have easily been resolved int eh “certification period” or even in the 3 years it took to get here. We invaded Iraq, a sovereign state in 40 days! We can figure this out in less time.

  • One thing we noticed about the OCCUPY WALL STREET MOVEMENT… it is not led by men. it is not led by women. it is LEADERLESS. in fact, one major point of contention was the strict egalitarian principles of organizing seen in extremis. Occupy Atlanta refused to allow Civil Rights hero John Lewis to speak at general assembly, as there was no consensus on the question of Rep. Lewis speaking. So many times we are afraid to allow the people to speak loudly, saying they would offend the sentiments of the general public. Certainly there is a balance that can be struck between open democratic method and non-egalitarian imaging/messaging to the public. Gathering 100 generals to repeal DADT was significant, as was ADM Mullen’s testimony.

  • One thing about the book I find most refreshing is it’s brutal honesty, even in self-criticism. FOr example (and I’ll only list one here!) Aaron points out the “strange bedfellows” made between the Gay Republicans (Log Cabin) and the activists like Palm Center who are by and large progressive in philosophy (although officially non-partisan). The LCR v US case in the 9th circuit, challenging the constitutionality of DADT was in and of itself a worthy effort, but it ultimately served more as a red-hot poker to push the military to get off their asses or get a swift kick in the pants by a worldwide injunction by the courts. Military doe snot like fiats from civilian judges, so they kicked it into high gear. Initially, everyone underestimated the case, and poo-pooed it (to use a technical term) but it really helped the process move, even if the decision was vacated. (I believe the lawyers are still trying to revive the case… which is important if we want a more durable protection against a president coming in and reinstating a form of DADT in the future… which he or she could theoretically do).

  • One of the major criticisms, including that from Barack Obama’s own mouth, in private and public, was that we should stop ‘hollering’ at those who nominally support our cause, that we should holler at the ones who don’t agree with repeal.

    Seated in the car, painfully aware that his boss was angry, was Jim Messina, Obama’s deputy chief of staff, the White House point man on don’t ask, don’t tell, and the target of many activists’ ire. Obama uttered a curse. “Messina, I don’t understand these guys. What is it about what we are doing that they don’t get? If they want to protest, they should go protest someone who was against this.”

    So the initial strategy was simple for Get Equal and others who took to the tactics of confrontation: The Democrats were the ones who nominally supported us. Obama made speeches, and he was the one who needed the pressure. Infact, he called for it in a very FDR fashion, at the HRC dinner in 2009:

    I said I would never counsel patience; that it wasn’t right to tell you to be patient any more than it was right for others to tell African Americans to be patient in the fight for equal rights a half century ago.

    from http://www.whitehouse.gov/photos-and-video/video/2011/10/01/president-obama-delivers-remarks-hrcs-annual-national-dinner#transcript

  • Bill McKibben is a prophet. He is so righteous, and I almost couldn’t believe how quickly he has adopted the principles of non-violent direct action, saying to the Occupy Wall Street crowd: “We need to surround the White House and remove the impostor that says he’s Barack Obama!” He has been a great source of inspiration and learning for me too. I do believe environmental issues are my issue too. If we are to fight for gay equality for future generations, those generations should also be able to breathe!

  • SCARECROW! Hey, good to see you here. (We went to jail together protesting the Keystone XL Pipe aka “TARSANDS” and the environmentalist community has so many parallels to the gay community) The issues largely stem from the gay lobby groups based in Washington DC. Not all of them, but I would say 90% live breathe and die for ACCESS to the White House and the inside loop of the Democrats. The Human Rights Campaign is the most well known of these pandering groups, but many others fit the image well. It goes beyond talking points for media appearances, it means the White House in a repudiation of citizen control of government (government of by for the people) will direct the communities to wait after a certain agenda and actively serve to stifle loud criticism. SLDN (Servicemembers Legal Defense Network) dared to criticize Obama for not moving on DADT and was effectively blocked from the inside loop, not getting invited to the cocktail parties or insider meetings for a few months. I’m sure the environmental groups face the same issues in working with this White House.

  • Aaron, you point out in the book how you debated Elaine at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama, that politeness goes a long way with military officers. Does the same polite imaging work when convincing other communities, for instance NCOs like CTuttle, or TV shows where guests are pitted against each other?

  • There are many ways to serve, as Aaron has shown throughout this journey. As we prepare for a post-repeal military, we should keep in mind all the people who helped make this happen: especially the folks on FDL and other communities that never gave up and pushed on despite all the difficulties. It was very much like combat!

  • You mention Elaine Donnelley of the Center for Military Readiness in your book. She seemed to be the lightning rod for the anti-gay camp, and her media presence was ubiquitous. Do you think she had the same internal conflicts in her efforts to stifle repeal as the gay side had? Or is the common thinking true that conservatives tend to be more lock step with whoever is out front in their activism?

  • FIRST QUESTION: Dr. Belkin, what do you think was more difficult: fighting anti-gay forces, or working within the internal politics of the gay community?

  • Hello everyone, and welcome to this amazing forum. I look forward to a great discussion!

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