Bradley Manning March. June 1st, 2013.
So it’s 7:34 AM and I made it to the bus on time. I had to get up at 4:30 to catch the LIRR into NYC then walk to the meeting point from Penn Station, which thankfully was not very far. Luckily, I did not encounter any hiccups along the way and, other than being tired, it was a smooth journey. I have the feeling it’s going to be a long day, somewhere around 95 degrees with no shade in sight. I have a pathetic turkey sandwich in my bag, some mixed nuts and almost more water than I can carry; but I have been waiting for this march for a long time, and even though I could not find anyone to join me, there was no way I was going to miss it. Most Americans are oblivious about the case, but the Bradley Manning trial may be one of the most important of our lifetime.
I woke up to a text from my husband Mike, saying he had changed his mind and was now supporting my attendance at this rally. Earlier in the week, while having dinner, he leaned over (unsolicited mind you) and told me, “I can’t support you on this one. I support you in everything you do, but not with this march.” As far as he was concerned, Bradley Manning was guilty of treason and should spend the rest of his natural life in prison. I explained to him that, while I thought he was insane, I was not needing support on this one. Thankfully, I married a man with an open mind who never shies away from challenging his own beliefs. This was the text I received June 1st, word for word: “So I have spent my night researching what Manning leaked. By far the most damaging to our national security and infrastructure I could find was the leak of the CFDI, Critical Foreign Dependencies Initiative. With that said, the majority of that info was available on the public domain to anyone who really wanted to look and for any would be terrorist with internet access and some ingenuity to easily identify. So, I apologize… It’s hard for me to get past what seems dishonorable to me at times. Damn Marine Corp. brainwashing!!! I still have some mixed emotions on the issue and I know you don’t require my support, but you have it. Go stand for what you believe in. I love you, be safe.”
I wish everyone in this country was as open-minded and willing to challenge their beliefs as Mike is, but sadly the vast majority are not. With little to no coverage of the Manning case, most Americans believe Bradley is a disgruntled soldier who put the lives of our servicemen and women in danger because he had a personal vendetta against the military—when in fact, that could not be farther from the truth. The truth is, Bradley Manning was actually trying to enlighten us. He wanted Americans to understand what was really happening overseas, and he wanted it enough to risk his own freedom exposing it. Sadly, not nearly enough Americans have taken notice. When I clicked on MSN.com, the top story was Angelina Jolie’s “heroic” return to the red carpet after choosing to have a double mastectomy. Brave? Maybe. Heroic? I would not define a trip to the red carpet as heroic, but maybe that is just me. Probably one of the things that is inherently wrong with this country is that we use the word heroic way too loosely, more often than not attaching it to the wrong action. And so, once again, Angelina Jolie’s tits have captivated America while a real American hero sits in a prison right under our noses. In my eyes, we have done Bradley Manning and his sacrifice a huge disservice; but aside from keeping him in the conversation, there is not much I can do about it.
I think the reason that most activists who have been critical of the government are drawn to this case is because we understand that sometimes doing the right thing can be perceived as being unpatriotic, when in fact it’s the very opposite—it’s absolutely patriotic. Most of us see the potential and know what good this country is capable of doing, but at the same time we see it minus the rose colored sunglasses. We see it how it really is, and sometimes it can be a lot to endure. When I first started opening my eyes, I earned the nickname “Debbie Downer” from my husband and friends. I am really trying to make a concerted effort to avoid falling into that depression again, which is why I like being around other activists: it gives me hope. For a solid year, I wallowed around on the computer, days on end, researching some really depressing shit. But now I choose to spend my time trying to be part of the solution, and it has put me in a much better frame of mind.
Still, when a case like this comes around, it’s hard not to feel outraged, depressed and helpless, especially when you hear people say things like, “Bradley Manning should be tried for treason.” As far as I am concerned, Bradley Manning is not a threat to America or to our way of life—but blindly ignorant nationalism is. It’s ironic to me that a country with the largest anti-bullying campaign in the world can be such bullies abroad, and yet its citizens do very little to try to stop it. In fact, most of us don’t even have a real clue about what is going on outside of our borders. We have become so lazy and disinterested in anything we do not feel is directly related to us that we have allowed our government to commit the most nefarious of acts. It seems that when the U.S. has an agenda, it will be carried out no matter the cost or how high the death toll, and most Americans will sit idly by, letting the most horrific things happen while they watch plastic heroes walk down trashy red carpets.
Just watch the “Collateral Murder” video put out by WikiLeaks and ask yourself if this is an action that should be defended. I know for a fact that I will never be able to defend the murder of innocent civilians; but the sad truth is, I pay my taxes, which in essence means that I inadvertently contribute to these horrific acts. That’s why I feel it’s not only my right to know about these atrocities, but also my moral obligation to speak out against them and stand in support of anyone else who does. I have no doubt that Bradley Manning understood the ramifications of his actions. He is a smart guy. I believe he fully understood the risks involved. The only thing I think Manning misjudged is American complacency. I think he believed there would be more outrage when the information was released, but it seems like only a small percentage of people know the facts of his case.
As have many others before him, Bradley Manning drew that proverbial line in the sand and decided enough was enough. He could no longer remain silent about the things he knew his government was doing in the name of “National Security.” So, as an American who is forced to help finance these endless wars, drone strikes and the killing of innocent civilians, I am glad someone finally had the balls to leak the truth to Julian Assange. And it can not be stressed enough that Manning was very careful not to release anything that would put his fellow servicemen and women in danger. His dog tags state that he is a “Humanist,” which I imagine only made living with those images all the more difficult. I have read that it was indeed the “Collateral Murder” video that tipped him over the edge. As far as the rest of the documents go, most of them seem to be more of an embarrassment to the government than an actual threat to national security—a government that, in my opinion, not only deserves to be publicly embarrassed but should be publicly shamed, as well. What is crazy to me is that their first response was not to address the issues in those videos, but rather to go after Bradley Manning full force, charging him with violating the espionage act and aiding the enemy.
This country has been taken over by vipers who tell us they have our best interests at heart. They start wars under false pretenses, they say it’s about “freedom,” when everything that has happened post 9/11 proves that they don’t give a rat’s ass about our freedom. And yet they still manage to sell bags of shit that the majority of Americans seem grateful to eat up. While I didn’t need to read WikiLeaks to figure out that we are completely fucked up, maybe someone else out there did—which is why I believe Bradley Manning performed a public service. I know there are still some who will say what he did was treason and that he should be put to death for his crime; but as the banner says, “Blowing the whistle on war crimes is not a crime.” Or at least, it shouldn’t be.
Here is what I, and many others, have figured out: America is not the “good guy.” As a country, we have very little regard for the truth—we haven’t for quite some time—but I also believe that there is still hope for us. If we did not love our country as much as we do, we would not put so much time and effort into trying to make it a better place. Bradley Manning said his conscience would no longer allow him to turn a blind eye to what he had seen, and for those of us who support him, we understand. We choose to see as well. We choose to see that our government does horrific things in our name, in the name of the American people, and some of us refuse to remain complacent any longer. Our actions may not be on the world stage like Manning’s are, but today and always, we are ALL Bradley Manning.
Author: Cynthia Cone is a heavily tattooed Ex-Con with no college education and very bad punctuation. She currently lives on Long Island, NY where she pays extremely high taxes, likes to drink, rage against the machine and shop at the GAP.
Cynthia is also a satellite producer for the radio show Dangerous Conversation which can be heard on radioio.com.
Contact Cynthia at firstname.lastname@example.org