3:17 am or so …
I’m blogging with one finger on my annoyingly tiny android keypad. The power in the house is out, which means no computers are available to fiddle with and distract me from the ocean breeze reverberating through my ear. It sounds as if I’ve had a concha shell pressed against it for hours.
I have SO much to do. If only I could use my computer RIGHT now, but alas I must wait till’ morning. The email replies, personalized query letters with accompanying press release, and book packages for mailing to reviewers will just have to wait … until well, later today.
Tic Toc the alligator chimes in the ambience of night. My To Do list can’t be ameliorated and Bradley Manning overpowers my anxiety. He’s become louder than the simulated concha shell reverberations.
Bradley Manning has been on my mind for the last several weeks. Since I first read his story.
I keep replaying his quote about simply wanting to have had a normal life, to have had a nice family, help others …
All the things most of us middle-class Americans were raised to want to do and be …
I keep thinking about how his wanting this too genuinely, too purely has cost him his freedom and safety, the rest of his life.
I keep thinking about his humanity — how his humanity got the better of him, made him susceptible to self-sacrificing heroic acts, and vulnerable to getting caught and punished for them.
I keep thinking about how Obama, one of life’s sad disappointments, gets the Nobel Peace Prize based on no real showmanship, but on Hope that he’ll show half the self-sacrifice, half the compassion, half the conscience, half the heart of Bradley Manning. Beyonce sang before millions of viewers at Obama’s inauguration while he and his wife shared a proud and tender dance. We all hopefully celebrated that dance as one of two well-intentioned people who wanted to promote fairness — peace, freedom, equality, honesty — in the world through their leadership and guidance. We rolled out the red carpet and handed over our futures, and the social security funds of our grandparents, to this union hoping that they’d embody the integrity and bravery of Bradley Manning.
And what do we do with the real, as opposed to symbolic, Bradley Manning?
We allow him to be charged with espionage, to be locked in a cell where he’s stripped naked, humiliated, and tortured off and on for almost a year (and counting). We allow our military to seriously consider sentencing him to either the death penalty or life in prison. We allow our elected leader of hope, our nobel prize winning Commander-in-Chief, to punish — in this 23-year old man — all the courage and compassion we profess to unitedly stand for.
I won’t lie. I get nervous posting such political rants — voicing my disappointment in the president of the US and the way he’s run his presidency (not like a Nobel Peace Prize winner), voicing my support for an “enemy of the state” — in such a heated political climate on such a public forum. Probably because, as I write, I wonder whether political allegiance or opposition to any person and/or party is even worth the risk?
I come from a Cuban family who supported a revolution that became the dictatorship which stripped them of all their rights. What did all their self-sacrificing support get them? Immediately following its success, their “for the people” political party (communist) and its leader (F. Castro) turned their beloved Cuba into Alcatraz. When they grew tired of his tyranny, disagreed, and tried to leave, that political entity quickly deemed them “enemies of the state.” My mom would get beat up by kids at school who called her “gusano” while the teachers cheered them on. Where did my family’s risky and self-sacrificing political involvement get them? As soon as they exercised their basic human right to disagree with the politicians they helped bring to power … harassed, robbed, and exiled.
Was it worth it? Opposing Batista, supporting Castro, disagreeing with the Castro regime … getting political at all?
I guess I could ask the same about Bradley Manning. He’s a brilliant, beautiful, blue-eyed All-American boy from a military family who worked in a cush well-paid military intelligence job, behind the front lines — far away from harm. He had no need or obligation to sacrifice his limitless potential for prosperity, but he did anyway.
Manning joined the military to help his country because, rarely enough, I think he actually respected and believed what it stood for. Apparently he loved its values — life, liberty, and justice for all — too sincerely because he laid everything on the line to promote them. Manning seemed motivated in his “treasonous” actions by a genuine disturbance with the inhumane murder of civilians and the military’s hypocritical cover ups. Manning seems to be a person with heightened empathy and an evolved conscience who cared simultaneously for the welfare of our nation and that of the nation we invaded. It’s understandable that someone with such a unique double-edged guilt would seek relief from it by confiding in another person. In the person who ratted him out — Adrian Lamo.
I’ve compiled a couple of quotes of from Manning’s IM correspondence with Lamo:
”Manning: ive been so isolated so long… i just wanted to be nice, and live a normal life… but events kept forcing me to figure out ways to survive… smart enough to know whats going on, but helpless to do anything…americans have so many more rights than non-americans, its awful… i guess i follow humanist values though, have custom dogtags that say “Humanist” … i want people to see the truth… regardless of who they are… because without information, you cannot make informed decisions as a public…i dont believe in good guys versus bad guys anymore… only a plethora of states acting in self interest… with varying ethics and moral standards of course, but self-interest nonetheless”
Now he’s locked up, his rights trampled on, and his name dishonored in the name of our national security.
So yes, I’ve been thinking of Bradley Manning a lot lately. About how we live and die politics, are benefitted or harmed by each other’s political actions, whether we choose to “get all political” or not.
As an artist, I acknowledge that art usually affects its political landscape subversively. This often gives an artist the luxury of either negating or accepting the truth that all art is innately political, and every artist responsible for the messages in their work.
As a literary artist, I’ll many times say literally exactly what I mean. Obviously, there’s nothing subversive about this blog post. It’s political and apparently so am I. Ugh. It runs in the blood.
Also, please “like” his facebook page to receive regular updates on his trial.
Thanks for reading!