Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore

Lt. Dan Choi & I: Together at last on Democracy Now

Filed By Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore | October 28, 2010 3:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Media, Politics
Tags: assimilation, camilo mejia, Dan Choi, Daniel Ellsberg, Democracy Now, Don't Ask Don't Tell, DREAM Act, gays in the military, morality, queer teens, us militarism, war machine

I'm moving to Santa Fe on Sunday, and what could be a better going-away present than an appearance on Democracy Now? And, not just that, but in conversation with Lieutenant Dan Choi, about one of my favorite topics! And, after writing a scathing critique about Choi's repeated appearances on the program without critical engagement.

It does give me hope that Democracy Now actually responded to the critique, and brought me on the show -- and I loved it! Of course I'm ready for more -- perhaps a debate on gay marriage?

I, and so many other radical queers with anti-assimilationist critiques, have spent years and years trying to inject some sense into the national debates on the issues that are draining all the resources out of the struggles, politics, communities and imaginations that mean something to us. Of course I'm talking about marriage, gays in the military, hate crimes legislation, ordination into the priesthood and the other obsessions of the gay establishment. I was excited to join the conversation on Democracy Now, a program I listen to pretty much every day, and it's also inspiring to get so much supportive feedback from people all over the country and the world -- straight, queer, old, young (and I'm sure all sorts of other variations that I'm not aware of just by reading the emails).

For too long the straight left has embraced the conservative agenda of the gay establishment as if this represents a wonderful gesture of inclusion, failing to notice that strengthening institutions like the military, state-sanctioned marriage, the criminal legal system (through hate crimes legislation), and the Church actually harms struggles for social justice. I hope this segment can enable more radical queer critiques in local, national, and international arenas. To more and more and more!

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What I find interesting about this debate is that I found myself agreeing with Mattilda and Dan.

I'm all for huge cuts to military spending and redistributing the money to things this country needs and limiting the military's role to actual defense and things like UN peacekeeping missions, for moral and economic reasons. Despite its stated purpose, the military today is mostly used as a means to perpetuate U.S. hegemony and protect U.S. business interests abroad, generally to the detriment of people in other countries and here.

But I also agree with Dan: The question of GLBT people in the military is about the legality of discrimination, not the morality of U.S. military policy. As much as I'm against invading other countries and spending money on the military instead of things like infrastructure and other basic needs, I'm also in favor of fairness and opposed to discrimination against GLBT people. No matter how passionately and fervently one opposes this country's military policy, it's inherently contradictory to claim to act on behalf of GLBT people while supporting discrimination against us, even if that's not the intention.

When queer people join the military, it's not like it's a decision between a full ride at Harvard or a modeling career or a book deal or the killing fields.

Is that a cheap shot at you, Mattilda? Coming from Mr. West Point with a book coming up?

And this:

War is the force that gives us meaning.

Gah! Ah! Ag! Ak!

Oh, I can't get that out of my head. "War is the force that gives us meaning." AH!

Alex, I can't watch the video right now because I am on dial-up, but I have a speculation about what Dan meant by that statement. Even if I am right, it still isn't a very pretty picture.

I don't think that Dan meant "War is the force that gives [human existence] meaning," I think he meant "War is the [opportunity] that gives [highly-trained and well disciplined military people the chance to show their stuff]."

In my experience, military people come in two flavors: (a) those who consider war to be a terrible thing and an absolute last resort, and (b) those who look forward to getting into combat so that all their hard training does not go ultimately to waste before their military careers are over.

Unfortunately, even some of the higher-up brass can be (b)-people, and having too many of them in a military organization is, IMHO, inherently dangerous, because it translates into an overly-eager tendency to go to war.

He went on to explain that war gives us meaning because it helps us, as a people, as the human race, understand that we have faults and helps us examine why we went to war in the first place, what broke down to make us want to exact violence on others.

Because the best way to prevent violence is to be violent. Which he said just moments before.

Well, Alex ... there are some media train wrecks that even hopeful spin doctors like me can't explain away.

As Ruth Buzzy used to say on SNL ... "Never mind."

Oops! That was Gilda Radner, not Ruth Buzzy.

Chitown Kev | October 28, 2010 7:28 PM

OK, I get what he is saying, sounds more like a warrior "ethos" of the type that I would read in stuff like the Iliad.

I wouldn't expect committed pacifists to get that sort of thing (which is about masculinity too).

I think so too, except in the Illiad they fought hand-to-hand instead of sending in drone airplanes to bomb people. I think we're about a few centuries too late for a "The meaning of life is to fight to the death" mentality.

And of course I don't get it. :)

Those two options are hardly mutually exclusive.

I know -- and where is my modeling career when I need it, really?

Mattilda - this might be the start of one; your outfit was glorious in its pinkness.

And I'm still trying to get the "war=meaning" bit out of my head too.

Yasmin, yay for modeling with content! But not with a "war = meaning" t-shirt, I don't think (at least not in the way that Dan Choi meant it -- without the critique that Chris Hedges intended, that is). Maybe with fake blood dripping down my face, now that might work...

I'm neither radical nor mainstream. Why? Because both groups say so. Stick that on your litmus test of false dichotomies.

Wait, wait, wait. Why in the hell are you moving from San Fran to Santa Fe? You'll be our 2nd contributor in three months to move there. Is there something in the water?

Good question, Bil -- oh so much to answer -- the short version is that I need a dramatic change, and that at least I know I will get -- but who else just moved there?

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | October 31, 2010 7:22 AM

I spent years helping organize and defend antiwar GIs during the invasion and occupation of Vietnam and I have no patience for those who dismiss all GIs as mindless killers. Many working class people feel forced to join the military or face long term unemployment, pauperization and homelessness. That's a tough choice but we should tell them, in no uncertain terms, to get out because the only real mission of the Pentagon is killing civilians and wasting the lives of GIs to make the world safe for Haliburton and BP. There's no honor in trading blood for oil.

There's no draft this time around, in spite of what reservists might think of their endless tours of duty. These are volunteers who sooner or later contribute, however tangentially, to the mass murder of Afghani and Pakistani civilians, the ethnic cleansing practiced against Palestinians and the genocide of the US invasion and occupation of Iraq. A further result in Iraq is that US armed and trained sunni police and shiite militia torture and murder hundreds, maybe thousands of Iraqi GLBT forks annually. The army looks the other way and Hillary Clinton's State Department is unconcerned.

GLBT folks who enlist are simply mistaken. People who reenlist knowing full well that the only mission of the Pentagon and the White House is to trade blood for oil not are not heroes and deserve no respect.

Private First Class Bradley Manning made the first mistake of enlisting, but not the qualitatively worse mistake of reenlisting. PFC Manning is currently being held at the brig at MCB Quantico accused of leading materials that reveal Obama's racist blood for oil wars. They're going to throw the book at him because he's accused of telling the truth about mass murder in Iraq. PFC Bradley Manning is the real deal. He's an antiwar and GLBT hero who deserves our respect and needs our help.

Don't enlist. Don't kill and don't fight. Don't translate.


Happy Halloween to all.