jumped the shark. The decorated military linguist who has made a 2nd career out of fighting for the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell has proven that there is a limit to just how far you can push the envelope before you end up defeating your own purpose. Lt. Dan Choi and Capt. Jim Pietrangelo are on a hunger strike.
I was totally on board when he hijacked the HRC/Kathy Griffin DADT rally a couple of months ago and led a group of marchers to the White House, where he handcuffed himself to the fence and got arrested. Acts of nonviolent civil disobedience have been a staple in the struggle for civil rights since day one. It was about time someone was willing to put his ass on the line. I am one of those who believe that we need to work behind closed doors and out in the streets to achieve our goals.
When Choi and Capt. Jim Pietrangelo did it again a couple of weeks later, I thought, "Well at least they're committed. Maybe it will help. Let's hope this doesn't turn into a case of overkill."
Then a couple of weeks ago Choi and Pietrangelo were joined by five other activists from GetEqual and did it again and I thought, "Okay, it's time to try something else guys. This is getting old." Little did I know that the something else these decorated vets would try, was going to be the political equivalent of a temper tantrum.
It's been all over the queer blogosphere since Thursday night and even some mainstream press has picked up the story. In the hours after both the Senate and House Armed Services Committees voted in favor of the compromise legislation that would phase in an end to Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Choi and Pietrangelo announced they were going on a hunger strike until the president and congress institute a immediate, full and unequivocal repeal.
The peckish duo have three demands:
#1: End the Comprehensive Working Group "Study," which insults the dignity of all Americans.
#2: End "Don't Ask Don't Tell" discharges forever.
#3: Replace all discriminatory regulations in the military with a comprehensive non-discrimination policy.”
Queers all over Facebook and the Twitter-verse are going ape-shit with faux concern over the health and welfare of these two fame whores as if life on planet Earth depended on them having a nosh. Bottom line: Nobody in Washington, or with more than two synapses to rub together, gives a rat's ass about anyone on a hunger strike.
For the record, I absolutely agree that the compromise language has a lot of gaps, loopholes and strings attached. There is no time table for full repeal. There is no moratorium on repeals pending the final implementation. The legislation gives unconstitutional veto powers to Secretary of Defense Gates and Joint Chiefs Chair Adm. Mullen. Our LGBT representatives from the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN and Servicemembers United (SU) all signed off on this bullshit legislation, effectively throwing us all under the bus.
Having said all of this, we need to support what could be the only chance we have for the next 15 to 20 years to repeal DADT with the caveat that these three LGBT organizations get their asses back to the halls of congress and the White House and fight to make this bill more fair -- and constitutional -- before it's too late.
To Lt. Choi and Capt. Pietrangello and those who support them, read a history book, or even a newspaper.
Times have changed since the days of Gandhi and Martin Luther King. Those two civil rights pioneers used hunger strikes to draw attention to their causes, but since then, it's been done to death. Comedian/Activist Dick Gregory went on several hunger strikes from the 60's through the 80's to draw attention to various causes he worked for. After the first two, people stopped paying attention.
Last year Actress Mia Farrow went on a hunger strike to draw attention to the genocide taking place in Darfur. She vowed she would not eat until the U.S. government stepped in and put an end to the violence. She lasted 12 days, until her doctor put a stop to it. She got a little publicity, but the U.S. government -- and most Americans -- didn't give a shit. No troops were sent to Darfur.
The hunger strike is an ineffective tool in the struggle for civil rights. In order for people to give a shit about a hunger strike, they have to give a shit about you. Let's be honest about this, our government, especially our military, does not give a shit about the LGBT community. They have no vested interest in furthering our cause. We are not an industry that provides jobs. We are not an ethnic minority. We are not in very many positions of power. Many of us still hide who we are, so there's no way of knowing just how many of us there really are in this country.
The only reason anybody listens to us at all is because we won't shut up and go away. In fact, many in our government hoped that the AIDS epidemic would accomplish just that. But we are persistent. We are patient and we do not give up.
However, when your 3-year-old child throws a temper tantrum, you ignore him until he wears himself out. If it's in public, you pick him up, take him home and give him a time out. (Back in the day, you just spanked him.) And if your toddler refuses to eat, you send him to bed without any supper. At least these are things that most good parents do. You show him who's boss and punish him accordingly or else you end up with a spoiled brat on your hands. Which brings me back to Lt. Choi.
I heard Dan Choi speak at the National Equality March in Washington last fall. I have listened to many of his speeches and TV appearances both before and after the march and with every one, he gets more and more full of himself. He is starting to believe his own publicity and it shows in his increasing arrogance.
Dan Choi has done a lot to call attention to the need to repeal DADT. Up until now I have defended his actions to a lot of mainstream activists and lobbyists who thought he and GetEqual were acting like spoiled brats. The problem with putting people on a pedestal is that they start to believe they belong there. We created this monster. I fully agree with Choi's list of demands, but his methods are uninspired, ineffective and immature. It's time to put this childishness aside and get back to the business of getting this legislation fixed.
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