|"I am Bradley Manning"|
Protests are planned nationwide, including one in Chicago on Monday, August 19.
At this time, it is important to recognize two aspects of the Bradley Manning legacy -- which we can all recognize as true and build on, even as the struggle to free Bradley himself continues.
(1) The Manning Principle
Bradley Manning expressed a crystalline clarity on why he did what he did:
"I believed that if the general public... had access to the information contained within the [Iraq and Afghan War Logs] this could spark a domestic debate on the role of the military and our foreign policy in general as well as it related to Iraq and Afghanistan." (Quoted in the July 25, 2013 full page New York Times ad sponsored by Courage to Resist and the Bradley Manning Support Network.)Manning expressed confidence in the moral nature of the American people -- and people in general. The principle he expressed is (a) fundamental to democracy; and (b) far too seldom observed by those of us in the peace and justice movement.
I confess that I, myself, far too often fail to come anywhere close to Bradley Manning's level of belief in people. How often have I said, "The only way we'll get people to oppose war is to appeal to their self-interest" or "People will only care about this if we talk about how much money it's costing them" . . . ? Why is it so hard to believe that people are moral?
In my opinion, the single best way to honor Bradley Manning is to recommit ourselves to the Manning Principle.
What would it mean for each of us to commit, say, to a year in which we would consistently place the truth in front of ordinary people, day after day, and patiently engage with them as they worked through the implications? What would it mean if we all believed in people as much as Bradley Manning?
(2) Truth Stress Syndrome
During the sentencing phase, the defense cataloged the emotional difficulties that Bradley Manning experienced around the time he made the leaks. (See: Manning Played Vital Role in Iraq Despite Erratic Behavior, Supervisor Says)
There is a danger that some people might suggest that emotional difficulties led to the decision to leak information. I think it is very important that we speak clearly about the real cause and effect.
It seems clear to me that Bradley Manning experienced a tremendous amount of stress -- the stress of a person confronting the truth, and recognizing an enormous conflict with his own sense of integrity. It is indisputable that Bradley Manning has suffered enormous personal consequences as a result of his decision to act in a way that is consistent with his true, moral self.
"Truth stress syndrome," therefore, might be thought of as stress and associated behavior associated with an extreme challenge to a person's sense of moral integrity, and their difficulty reconciling their obligation to society with the personal consequences they will suffer from acting morally.
A corollary -- and one that was the focus of the defense presentation at sentencing -- is that there is a risk that, due to behaviors associated with truth stress syndrome, a person may actually be prevented from carrying out the moral actions that they determine are necessary. It is fortunate for us that, in Bradley Manning's situation, those around him were not alert to the stress he was experiencing. More generally, truth stress syndrome needs to be recognized by the movement for peace and justice as a major obstacle to the accomplishment of the movement's goals: the very people we depend upon most to engage in courageous and moral acts are the most likely to be thwarted by those around them when they exhibit the signals of stress.
There is no question in my mind that Bradley Manning is a hero of historic proportions, and that we should all aspire to become like Bradley Manning. Now's the time for us to start systematizing the process of nurturing -- and supporting, and protecting -- thousands of Bradley Mannings.
(See I am (I will become) Bradley Manning )
(See Hoping Against Hope (Resistance in America))
(See The Path to Peace: Why Not the Manning Way?)
Ai Weiwei is a fascinating character, and particularly interesting to me because of my years of involvement with China. But at some point I started to wonder if the situation of Ai Weiwei and other dissidents in China isn't just too remote to be relevant to most Americans. Somehow it was only when I saw these re-creations of the detention experience that I saw how directly connected the experience of Ai Weiwei is to that of people the U.S. persecutes.
(See Ai Weiwei: So Far Away, and Yet So Close (Take 1) )