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Monday, December 20, 2010

Letter to Sandy Tsao

In the text of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King's historic "I Have a Dream" speech, the word "homosexual" does not appear once. Neither do the more colloquial terms "gay" and "lesbian." Yet words from that speech were what first leapt into my mind Saturday afternoon as I watched the Senate vote to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell".

To many, Dr. King is not so much a person as an avatar for American justice and equality, and never more so than in those several minutes of videotape. So perhaps it was a Pavlovian response to the rare experience of seeing, live before my eyes, long-overdue justice finally delivered to targets of discrimination.

"No...no, we are not satisfied," Dr. King said that day, "and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream."

The note pictured above was a handwritten response from President Obama to Sandy Tsao, an Army officer who'd informed her superiors that she was gay and written subsequently to the President to request his help ending "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." She received his response in May. Of 2009.

Justice rolls down like waters. Righteousness like a mighty stream. That sounds pretty fast. And to many, this process seemed anything but. Including, this note shows, the President himself.

Undeniably, the President's "long game" worked in this case, and he'll be within his rights to remind us of that. (Perhaps he'll do so during the 2012 re-election campaign should the failed DREAM Act prove to be his political Obi-Wan Kenobi, a more powerful force in death than in life.)

But for all the anger over the 17 years "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was allowed to stand, the now-successful struggle for repeal proves that the "long game" is not just a presidential strategy, but a sad reality in an America where such discrimination can be removed from the law and yet continue to thrive -- as if to spite the progress made.

There are not yet any rolling waters, nor any mighty streams. Are you satisfied?

(Image via ThinkProgress.)


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