You remember him: the Iraq War veteran and West Point graduate was both the face and the voice of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell repeal effort throughout much of 2009 and 2010. It seemed that anytime there was anybody talking about DADT, he was there. Where has he been since then? Gabriel Arana, Senior Editor at The American Prospect (and former BTB contributor), has a really great profile in the latest issue which brings us up to date with what Choi’s been up to:
On a Wednesday in August, Dan is setting up for Hungry Hungry Hippos night. On the white coffee table, he’s laid out a platter with sliced boiled eggs dusted with paprika; mini carrots and tomatoes; Sour Patch Kids; and a dozen pot cupcakes that have collapsed into themselves. “I can make brownies, but the cupcakes I can’t get right,” he says. He’s got backup: a six-foot glass bong. The table’s centerpiece is Hungry Hungry Hippos, a children’s game in which players operate four plastic mechanical hippos and try to gobble up as many marbles on the board as possible.
By the time an artist friend walks through the door, Dan is stoned, a fact he broadcasts loudly. “I’m high!” he tells her before bursting into high-pitched laughter. Dan offers her a hit, bringing a flame to the bowl. She takes one, exhaling with a grimace.
Activism, especially the very public form of activism Choi engaged in, can chew people up and spit them out. Arana’s profile is a sympathetic, yet cautionary tale of an acclaimed hero whose identity got so wrapped up in a cause that they lost their sense of who they were as an individual:
A few things I am certain of. Washington can make people, even those who fight for human rights, lose their humanity. It gets covered up with talking points, strategy, branding. At the height of Dan’s celebrity, few in the repeal movement pulled him aside and said, “All this doesn’t matter more than you do. Let’s go home.” …None of this is to say Dan would have listened. He had fallen in love with his own martyrdom. He had conflated activism with celebrity.