Saturday, March 12, 2011

bradley manning and the microcosm of the american myth

with so much huge stuff going on in the world--the tsusami's, the various rebellions in the Middle East--i feel my emotional reactions clogging--it's millions of people dead, millions being destroyed.  at least with the tsumais, i know what i want to happen; the bad guy is nature, though a nature possibly abetted by human abuses.  i want it to stop and go away, and everything to go back to what it was before.  with the middle east, i don't know enough about any one government to know whether the rebellions are good for the people or not.  some of the dicatators are american puppets, which perhaps means it's good that  they fall.  but will the western countries allow that to happen to their puppets, or allies?  further, i don't have a sense of what might take their places.  years back, when our puppet in iran was ousted, we took care of him; he flew to the US [gold toilet seats in his plane intact] where he lived out his life in luxury, wholly held unaccountable for the thousand of iranians he had tortured and killed during his reign.  but he wasn't replaced by anything better, only more religious.  the ayatollah was a monster on his own, and the country has been ruled by fanatics ever since.  so i find myself caught in mixed emotions and mixed hopes, and the sum total is numbness.

as all this goes on, i have been leading my own comfortable life, which includes grading papers for my classes here at the castle.  as we do every year, we study among other works anne frank's diary.  reading their midterms, i see again and again how anne's story personalizes the unthinkable, reminds us that the 6 million jews were 6 million humans, living their different lives, good, bad, dull, interesting, the whole human glut.  hardly an original thought, that microcosm illuminating the macrocosm.

but today reading the news, the grief and anger i have not felt at any of the large destructions reminded me of where i do feel anger, the one individual who for me encompasses the suffereng of the wronged.  he is none of the people involved in these huge incidents, and it is possible he won't even be murdered.  but when i read today of obama's approval of this man's mistreatment, all those feelings of hurt for betrayed humanity broke through.

bradley manning, the 22 year old soldier arrested by the CIA and kept in solitary for months, isn't even the hero of the big news story he has been caught up in, which will be back in the headlines once we've gotten our media fill of more dramatic, or at least more deadly, events.  the dashing, handsome julian assange, founder of wikileaks whose probable sexual misdoings have become an improbable excuse for the various manhunts he's facing, is the protagonist in this story. his drama has all the right elements for media attention, whether he's viewed as the bad guy [betraying governmenr secrets] or the good guy [helping uncover information about events the US is paying for and killing for].

meanwhile, a little side story in assage's drama, remains in prison, facing daily humiliation, degradation, and deprivation, which our president says is just hunky dory.  bradley manning is charged with giving much of the information wikileaks has published.    [one wonders why this unimportant kid had access to such presumably important material, but i suppose that's another story.] 

cleverly, predictably, they are trying to use his own mind against him. locked in solitary, visits even with his lawyers kept to a minimum, he is given no access to other prisoners or other means of communicating with the outside world.  for a while, apparently, he was forced to sleep naked without a blanket. now they seem to have given him a blanket.  he has been called mentally disturbed and so is under suicide watch, with all its attendant restrictions.  there's something so kafka-esque about this; he is put in a position that would after so much time convert the most mentally sound of minds to symptoms of instability  [which, by the way, have not even been proven in his case].  in any case, a 'suicidal' prisoner may be very useful, if he does turn out to know things he hasn't yet shared with wikilinks.  it wouldn't be US history's first suspicious suicide. 

but even if that's too dramatic a possibility, the young man's life will, in the most optimistic scenaro, be permanently damaged.  in our land of freedom of speech, this young man is a convenient scapegoat.

and he is also a microcosm. he is what governments are allowed to do to people, even in the-land-of-the-free.    as we now set about to teach the newly rebelling countries how to become democracies,  it wouldn't hurt to challenge the limits of our own.  and maybe to start with a 22 year old kid who did what he beleived right, and is now huddling naked under a blanket in a cell no one can get to. 

1 comment:

Mark Latour said...

I think this post hits the nail on the head.

I just finished reading the biography by Robert Harvey of Thomas Cochrane who took on the corrupt practises of the British Admiralty and was run through the worst example of kangaroo courts the deeply corrupt British legal system of the early nineteenth century could produce.

Convicted and sentenced, he was many years later exhonorated and restored to his position in society.

I hope the same for this splendid young man doing the correct American thing.

The Nuremberg trials argue the same in his favor.

Sometimes following orders is wrong, and aught to be punished along with the givers of those orders.