Tag Archives: war

Tic Toc the alligator chimes — And Bradley Manning’s on my mind.

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.

Please read it Here 1 & Here 2.

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”

Read most of their IM Discussion here.

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.

Please read more about this American war hero & SIGN the petition to save his life!

Also, please “like” his facebook page to receive regular updates on his trial.

Thanks for reading!


At “Ceviche Loco” — Contemplating Political Loyalty

I’m exhausted. Nocturnal by nature, the Sun tends to lull me to sleep…Ahh, the breezy warmth of a Los Angeles winter.  Like snuggling up in mamushka’s queen sized bed while she makes me cafe con leche.  I’m waiting for my fish ceviche tostada and taco de pescado empanizado.

I spend nights awake & alert: working on art projects, writing, reading, scheming, watching movies, saving the world one conversation at a time till’ 4 in da’ mornin’ with a besty, or trying desperately to sleep “like a healthy person” for hours upon end.  This is why I LOVE the weekends.  I don’t have to feel any guilt, fear, or negative physical repercussions over my internal clock’s odd nature.  Friday night, Saturday, & Sunday are idyllic: Sleep in until 2p or 3p, run around and do stuff in the light of the world until it wanes (errands, brunches, exhibits, plays), and then when the sky turns the blue black it won’t shake for hours: I work on my art projects, write, read, scheme, watch movies, and save the world one conversation at a time til 4′ in da’ mornin’ with a besty.

“Besty” and/or “Besties” refers to dear friends I profoundly enjoy.  I learned the term in junior high.  I use it often since then.  Although I must admit, I like saying the word more than seeing it written.

So on Sunday at 10p, the night solidified its stay and my eyes wouldn’t close for even a blink.  My eyeballs were dry, meyng.   My tooth cavity hurt too.  So, I logged into Baby Dewds’ netflix account and watched some celluloid.

First, I saw the Comedy Central Bob Saget roast, which was more of a “hug/I really love you, man aka john stamos/you’re such a GAY jew dewd, huh huh” Fest than a “haha” fest.  It was no Pam Anderson roast.  Also, watching Norm McDonald’s face puffed up by wet brain was not funny.  At all.  Only drunks at the brink of wet brain who get sloppy and have some sort of “rock n’ roll” background are funny.  Like Courtney love on the Pam Anderson roast.  No, wait.  Her slow death isn’t really that funny either.  Just Jeff Ross’ take on it.  Man, Comedy Central Roasts are so depressing to think back on.

After that, I watched what brings me to blogging yet again at “Ceviche Loco” — The documentary Theater of War. It dissects German playwright Bertolt Brecht’s renowned 1939 play Mother Courage & Her Childrenand follows its NYC adaptation with Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, and Tony Kusher during 2006. I clicked on it because 1) The play starred the dynamite dame Meryl Streep  & 2) I’d never before seen a documentation of a single play’s “behind-the-scenes” process (playwrights and their plays — yes, but not one specific play)… So I thought, “HEY! Let’s do it.”

I knew nothing of Brecht or Mother Courage & Her Children so I was excited to learn more about the whole bada-bing.

It was a fascinating documentary.  Not for the cinematic artistry as the cinematography, editing, and sound design were amateur, but more for its multi-angle approach to exploring the play material.

You could tell the doc had been pieced together by someone who loved this play.  Not someone wowed by the hollywood fame of Streep and Kline or the pretension of comprehending THE THEATAWR, but by a collection of someones who wanted the audience to UNDERSTAND the play’s significance — its pivotal meaning to society — especially today.  The doc inspires one to reflect on their ideological beliefs not just theoretically (e.g. conversations with besties till’ 4 in da’ mornin’), but in the flesh.

How deeply do you embody your political loyalties?  Would you die for them? Sacrifice your limb, your sight, your child?  Your business?  Are the virtues of youth exploited by war?

Without having read the play or seen it performed, I can only discuss the contemplations aroused by the documentary and its reflections on Brecht’s Mother Courage & Her Children.

Mother Courage & Her Children‘s Quick Overview courtesy of Amazon.com:

Anna Fierling, an itinerant trader during the seventeenth century, becomes known as “Mother Courage” after the constant warfare gradually claims all of her children.

Play by Bertolt Brecht, written in German as Mutter Courage und ihre Kinder: Eine Chronik aus dem Dreissigjahrigen Krieg, produced in 1941 and published in 1949. Composed of 12 scenes, the work is a chronicle play of the Thirty Years’ War and is based on the picaresque novel Simplicissimus (1669) by Hans Jakob Grimmelshausen. In 1949 Brecht staged Mother Courage, with music by Paul Dessau, in the Soviet sector of Berlin. The plot revolves around a woman who depends on war for her personal survival and who is nicknamed Mother Courage for her coolness in safeguarding her merchandise under enemy fire. One by one her three children die, yet she continues her profiteering. — The Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature
Wars are fought by Mother Courage’s Children.  Each, as the film points out, killed by an Achilles’ heel — which proves not to be a character weakness but a character strength — a Virtue.
Kattrin: The mute daughter “who is killed as she attempts to warn a town about an imminent siege.” – Empathy killed her.
Eilif: “Mother Courage’s eldest and favorite son, he is something of a thug, though she thinks him “dashing” and “brave.” He is recruited by the Recruiting Officer in the first scene, and he seems after that to really enjoy the war. Much praised by the General in Scene 2 for slaughtering peasants and stealing their livestock, Eilif is executed for committing the same deed in Scene 6 in peacetime. Mother Courage never knows of his death.” – Fearlessness killed him.
Swiss Cheese: “Mother Courage’s younger son. Swiss Cheese is, according to his mother, too honest. He is painted by Brecht to be rather stupid. He takes a job as paymaster of the Second Finnish Regiment and attempts to hide its cashbox so that he can return it to his general after the Catholics have gained power. He is caught with it and shortly executed.” – Honesty killed him.
We — the young ones — are sacrificed for wars about ideologies — ideological wars devised by those that never had to die for their beliefs.  Yes, some war promoters/profiteers may have had to go to war and almost die or came back missing arms and legs. Many more came back physically whole, but mentally beyond repair.  And then there were those that never had to risk their skin at all…
Young soldiers die in the flesh for beliefs.  They kill other flesh & blood human beings for beliefs.  Beliefs:Ideas:Concepts.  Usually for the collective ideology of a community they were raised or embraced by.
The young soldiers of Fidel Castro’s revolution/overthrow of Batista’s government were this way, the young soldiers of Hitler’s 3rd Reich, American soldiers in Iraq & Afghanistan, the young Israeli soldiers in Palestine & Lebanon, the young Native-American warriors during European colonization, the young Zapatistas in Mexico, the young guerilla warriors in Colombia, the young child soldiers in the Congo, and the list goes on and on.
People my age and younger all over the world are dying for “what’s right,” dying for “the right” to live, dying for “our right to live a certain way” at the cost of other people’s “right to live a certain way” or “live. period.”  The Sacrificial Young are propelled into the arms of death by a passionate empathy, fearlessness, and honesty blinding in youth.
So I began to wonder — I know there are specific people I would die for — but are there ideologies I would die for too?  Are there any ideological wars taking place now that I would lay my life down for?  Cut my years on earth short for? Risk the quality of my life — risk my eyes which allow me to see the movies I love so much, risk hearing great jokes for a permanent deaf silence, risk dancing all night for a two-wheeler on the sidewalk, risk soundness of mind (the little I have left) for grotesque and painful memories that grow strong with age and beat me mercilessly in dreams…
Ideologies for which I’d sacrifice peace of mind and faith in humanity and remaining bits of childhood innocence and Eugene O’neill plays and Du Bois books and Flamenco music and train rides through German country sides and filming little Indian girls dancing at school performances in Jaipur and kissing a woman I’ve fallen madly for on the lips and lazy days on California beaches with besties and … and … and …
Do I have any staunch unmovable loyalties to any political entity or ideological organization?  And if so, would I’d die for  THEM?  Wow.  That’s a serious question, my friend.
I. don’t. know. yet.
All I do know is this: Every day I try my best to act — in all areas (personal, creative, & professional) — in accordance with the personal ideologies I hold dear.  I am my own political entity: The Party of Vanessa Libertad Garcia — who believes in affordable health care and higher education, quality public education, equality in the workforce, FREEDOM OF SPEECH, and the right to do and pursue anything you want as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else — For All.
If one day my freedom to do that was seriously threatened, and I had to sacrifice my safety to keep it … I’d like to think I would.
Well, preferred forms of resistance are a whole nother’ blog post!

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