I had the good fortune of meeting Dan Choi at the Netroots Nation conference last year and he lived up to all his media hype. He was nice, humble, passionate and clearly holding down his spot as an up and coming leader in the LGBTQ rights movement or at least one of its more mainstream incarnations.
As someone who hangs out with activists that still engage in direct action (I know, the butt of liberal blogger jokes), I still see a profound value in direct action, even if for the point of media spectacle. A good example of this was when youth stormed Oakland after not getting a hearing for Mesherle, the officer that shot and killed Oscar Grant. There was definitely some frustration about how youth “acted out,” in a potentially disorganized manner, but two things were clear; Oscar Grant’s shooting was a way bigger deal than many people realized and a breaking point for age-old resentments by young people in Oakland; and it was clear that the national headlines ultimately helped our cause by getting it on the national scene. Putting the story on the national scene forced a type of accountability and organizers met some of their demands in record time.
Is the national LGBTQ movement organized in the same way? National and more mainstream equal rights groups get more press than localized, queer organizing initiatives and I think there is some question as to what has been done with this power. One implication to Choi’s media stunt, along with the organized arrest of member of “Get Equal,” in San Francisco is that it shed light on the ineffectiveness of Human Rights Campaign. Queerty writes,
Not that the org needs any help with that. “Today more than 1000 people showed up at a rally – 500 of which signed up to become more involved in the fight to repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’” reads a separate statement from HRC. “Joe Solmonese along with Eric Alva and others felt it was important to stay and engage those at the rally in ways they can continue building the pressure needed for repeal. This does nothing to diminish the actions taken by Lt. Choi and others. This is the nature of social change and everyone has a role to play.” Sad, sad Solmonese. Nobody, except maybe his octogenarian donors, is even pretending this organization commands respect any more. Invited by Choi to join him in marching to the White House, Solmonese and Griffin, relays Americablog, “looked over at Dan when he asked them, for the second time, to come with him to the White House (mind you, they had no idea that he was planning to handcuff himself), and they just stared back at him. They were not helping engage the rally about how to build pressure – the rally was over, they were already off the stage, behind it actually, getting ready to leave behind a secure rope line to separate them from the crowd.” These are the memories that will be burned into the minds of attendees and anyone reading the coverage: Solmonese and Griffin stayed behind to do jackshit, and once again let other, more mobile and courageous heroes do the necessary dirty work.
Check out the rest of the piece at Queerty since it breaks down pretty clearly what some of the implications of this dual arrest in terms of media and movement. I suppose I am forced to ask, have we surpassed a time when direct actions that are loosely coordinated and make us uncomfortable useful? Or will we always be outshone by a mainstream group that claims to have the credibility and vision to take charge? While Choi’s stance on DADT is clear and public, did his action build power, did it mobilize the masses or does it just make him lose credibility?
Huffington Post also has more.
The Question of DADT and Citizenship.
Pentagon to Reveal Plan to Repeal DADT