Lt. Dan Choi: The Face of a Movement

On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks decided she had had enough. When the driver of a crowded Montgomery bus decided to extend the “whites only” seating past the section Rosa Parks was occupying, she refused to move. “When that white driver stepped back toward us,” Parks later recalled, “when he waved his hand and ordered us up and out of our seats, I felt a determination cover my body like a quilt on a winter night.”

It’s an account most of us learned long ago in school, along with other revolutionary acts of the Civil Rights movement. To this day they inspire children in classrooms, who marvel at the absurdity of hate and cheer for the victory of right over wrong. The gay rights movement is now embarking on similar battles across the country.

Lt. Dan Choi, who was honorably discharged from the military under “don’t ask, don’t tell,” chained himself to the White House fence in protest of the policy in November. He now faces federal charges for refusing to vacate the White House sidewalk upon police orders. If convicted, Choi could serve up to six months in jail.

According to the Associated Press, “Choi and his lawyer have complained that he is being selectively prosecuted because of his vocal gay rights activism and insist his case belongs in local court.” The Department of Justice has filed a writ of mandamus, which would prevent the judge from allowing Choi to use the “selective prosecution” defense. Choi has rejected plea deals which would spare him jail time.

My generation often wonders where our Martin Luther King Jr. is hiding, where our Rosa Parks or our Harvey Milk could be. We live in an age where change is rapid, information instant, and life security much more precarious than our parents recall in their time. In the midst of this global madness, Generation Y still makes its way. From technology to equality, we’re welcoming the future, and using all of our resources to positively affect the present. After all, social media is said to have been the key component behind the revolution in Egypt. Could it be that we no longer require a single voice be lifted above the others to ensure that our message is being heard?

But people like Lt. Dan Choi are still out there, putting a face to a fight, refusing to move to the back of the bus. His “don’t ask, don’t tell” protest is yet another service his country should offer him great thanks for. We may have social media, but we still need our leaders.

“The right to speak on behalf of those who cannot speak for themselves is more than a privilege,” said Choi upon cross-examination. “It’s a moral responsibility and I take that seriously.”