Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Dan Choi Hospitalized After Breakdown

Activist and Iraq War Veteran Lt. Dan Choi has checked himself into a VA hospital after what he describes as a mental and emotional breakdown triggered by last Thursday's crushing senate defeat of DADT repeal. The activist released an open letter explaining what he's been going through and why he felt the need to get some help. (Via Autumn Sandeen at Pam's House Blend):
"I did not initially want to publicize this but I now realize it is critical for our community to know several things: veterans gay or straight carry human burdens, Activists share similar burdens, no activist should be portrayed as super human, and the failures of government and national lobbying carry consequences far beyond the careers and reputations of corporate leaders, elected officials, High powered lobbyists, or political elites. They ruin lives. My breakdown was a result of a cumulative array of stressors but there is no doubt that the composite betrayals felt on Thursday, by elected leaders and gay organizations as well as many who have exploited my name for their marketing purposes have added to the result. I am certain my experience is not an isolated incident within the gay veteran community.

At the same time, those who have been closest to me know that I truly appreciate their gracious help and mentorship. I am indebted to their hospitality and leadership.
If you could share the info and sentiment I'd be most grateful."
Choi says he decided to disclose this latest development himself, rather than have some reporter uncover it, which might make it look as though he had something to hide. That's probably the best thing to do in a case like this. Usually when a public figure seeks help in this manner, they have a publicist handle it with a very short and sweet statement, that explains what's going on, but leaves out the details until the person in question feels well enough to return to public life. Obviously, Dan doesn't have a publicist. 

Choi's letter illustrates the psychological toll taken on our queer service members and those activists who fight so hard in the uphill battle for justice.

What I find most interesting about this letter is that it reveals something about Choi that I've always suspected: the guy has an enormous, yet very fragile ego. Comparing himself to a superhero and describing the anti-equality folks and Gay Inc. as though they were super villains shows just how much pressure he has put on himself to carry the full burden of our fight for equal rights.

Having had a breakdown or two in my time, I can tell you that it's your body/mind's way of saying, "Stop! This isn't working!"

A mental and emotional breakdown is like when your computer crashes and you have to reboot. It's actually the healthiest thing your body can do for you when you're headed down the wrong path. I don't mean to say that Choi shouldn't be fighting the good fight. Even with his missteps, like his hunger strike earlier this year, Choi has done more for our movement than most individuals. But with everybody around him constantly telling him what a hero he is, he tried so hard to live up to that image, even though deep down he knew it wasn't true. His subconscious is now trying to help him get back to being "just Dan".

Choi obviously feels as though he's been pulled in too many different directions by too many people and that he's been exploited by organizations and activists who care more about self-promotion than they do about equality. He has become a symbol of our struggle and an idol to many of us. But the fact of the matter is that he's just a guy trying to make a difference. This breakdown is his body's way of reminding him of that.

Good luck, Dan. Get some rest and feel better soon.

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1 comment:

  1. Thanks for covering this Steve. I have always admired Dan for being a beacon of hope in our struggle. His speeches have always been loud and clear and very direct. His actions,sometimes controversial, have nevertheless been true and honest to his spirit and belief in full equality for all. We wish him well, and for a speedy recovery.. for we need his unique strength and courage in this prolonged battle.


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