Ed Team

Dan Choi is the new anti-bourgeois

Filed By Ed Team | March 23, 2010 7:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Quote of the Day
Tags: bourgeois, Dan Choi, war

"When I get messages from people who want to be a part of this I ask back: what are you willing to sacrifice? We are tired of being stereotyped as privileged, bourgeois elites. Is someone willing to give up their career, their relationships with powerful people, their Rolodex, or their parents' love to stand up for who they are? I'm giving up my military rank, my unit--which to me is a family--my veterans' benefits, my health care, so what are you willing to sacrifice?

They say freedom is not free, but it doesn't have to cost anything either. Jesus up on the cross did not have a party with all his major donors to raise money for his cause, his cross was free. Ghandi did not need three-course dinners and a cocktail party to get his message out. These are people who sacrificed their lives. For them it was hemlock, a cross, the bullet that shot Harvey Milk ... it was not the size of their distribution list, but their message that endured."

--West Point grad, decorated military officer, and Afghanistan and Iraq war supporter Dan Choi in Newsweek

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If HRC actually did anything with all the ca$h they rake in, I might respect them. But as for now: Good on you, Lt. Choi.

And...oh, my, he wasn't joking, was he?

Jesus, Gandhi, and Milk, all in one.

The guy has a Messiah complex. And no idea of history. Also, no sense of irony, it seems.

Gandhi (and thanks, Newsweek, for misspelling the name of only one of the most famous men of the 20th century; I can only hope the mag has made the correction by now) did not drink hemlock - that's just so 4th century B.C, Dan. He was assassinated. And oh, the irony of wanting to be in the army and fight to "I manifest equality and America's promises." Hmmmm... Gandhi, fighting for neoliberalism colonialism! That's a movie in the making, right there. Even better than Jane Austen's books being turned into vampire stories.

Also, um, Jesus? Definitely anti-war and a stoic and principled draft refuser, I'm thinking. I mean, that's what I gather even from my admittedly limited readings of the Bible.

As for "I know my country's mission is not to make an entire group of people into second-class citizens." Has the guy actually been in Iraq? Someone should send him a copy of Naomi Klein's Shock Doctrine. Or perhaps just a subscription to In These Times? The Nation? The New Yorker? Has Dan Choi not seen the images of Abu Ghraib?

And because I have no doubt that this comment will lead to a) many abusive responses b) many people insisting that Dan's just the nicest guy and they should know, having MET HIM PERSONALLY, let me just add:

The point is not whether he's a nice guy or not. The point is that he echoes and embodies the worst sort of uncritical pro-U.S imperialist rhetoric wrapped in a specious tale of gaining "equality." And that's a problem. Perhaps an even bigger problem is that Choi's stunning lack of knowledge of the realities of history makes his rhetorical strategies no different than that Sarah Palin, as my friend M. recently pointed out.

There's so much more to be said, but I shall save all that for a later project.

I agree with you on the uncritical approach to US imperialism, Yasmin, but not on the messiah complex. The guy's 29, which is not quite half my age, but close, and he's not that much older than the students I teach, most of whom have difficulty recognizing the constant drumbeat of jingoism around them as colonialist propaganda (and they seem to think that being a colonist was a good thing to be, which is perhaps why so few of those do well in my classes). I do think Lt. Choi is being heroic, which is different from being a hero, even if his theory is a bit flawed. He seems genuine to me. But the real problem in my mind is that he is surrounded by uncritical minds who don't themselves understand that homophobia and colonialism, while different, are made from the same mold.

I'd agree with you, Jillian, and I do see your point about youth. But...I've taught students much younger than him who had a critical perspective on the war and resisted the jingoism from the start. I currently work in an activist capacity with high school students who resist the Chicago Public School system's millitarisation of their school district, and so on.

Choi's a grown man who attended West Point and graduated with degrees in Linguistics and Environmental Engineering, not some young kid fresh out of school forced to enter the Army because it was his only option. And, to be fair, this is not to say, of course, that someone forced to enter the Army might not also buy into the imperialist rhetoric.

Dropping the references to Jesus, Milk, and Gandhi might also go a long way in removing the distinct impression that the guy has a definite Messiah complex. And, at the very least, he could get his history right!

There's, in my mind, no excuse for his lack of clarity/buying into imperialist rhetoric.

I see your point about being heroic but not a hero, and I also think that he's setting himself up for tremendous isolation if he allows people around him to exploit his willingness to be their front man while they take none of the heat. On the other hand, I also don't know if it matters whether he's genuine or not - there are harmful effects on public discourse, of having someone like Choi echo such stark contradictions and of having mainstream mags like Newsweek and even Amy Goodman's Democracy Now not raise a peep of protest.

And I agree - homophobia and colonialism are made from the same mould.