Sunday, March 20, 2011
Reflections on Bradley Manning
Today Bradley Manning has been detained for two hundred and seventy nine days. He is a government whistleblower now held in solitary confinement at the Marine Base in Quantico for leaking documents that supposedly “threaten” national security. It is reported that he is forced to stand naked for hours in solitary confinement. Daily. For over two hundred days now. If Bradley Manning could be detained for over two hundred days standing up for truth and justice; if he can get arrested for demanding that the American empire not manufacture any more traitors of foreign cultures via torture, then I can endure a simple forty day Daniel fast. This is what I have been doing to seek clarity and direction from the Lord. I already see events happening in my life that are pointing me in the direction I should go in. A direction that is closer to the Lord Jesus. For me, this is a direction that is increasingly in support of Bradley Manning. Yet this is a direction that is, in some ways, farther and farther away from the parents I love yet still respecting and cherishing the culture in which they raised me. I made a commitment today on Sunday, March 20th, one day after my mother’s birthday to show my support for Bradley Manning. To show my support for truth and the degree to which one will lose their personal freedoms for telling the truth. So I joined the protest just outside barricades at Quantico to tell Bradley Manning THANK YOU. It is the least I could do since Manning’s decision to defy empire has rendered him in solitary confinement. I also went to Quantico today to tell President Obama that he has ample time to fulfill two campaign promises of stopping torture and protecting government whistleblowers. Bradley Manning willingly and bravely leaked thousands of documents to WikiLeaks who then distributed it to the New York Times, Guardian, Der Spiegel, Le Monde, and El Paix. I think its only a matter of time before history reveals how this leak inspired the overthrow of Mubarak in Egypt and other very important events that arguably inspired the protests in Wisconsin among other things. The documents detailed America’s sordid plans to grow their empire through military conquest. They detailed this country’s expansive spy network through its embassies. They detailed the enormous corruption in the Afghanistan government funded by the U.S. They exposed corrupt Arab leaders wrestling each other for the trinkets of this empire, to the peril of their nation’s majority. We can only hope that more Bradley Mannings in this world can help expose and calm the destructiveness of our hypermilitarism. According to Daniel Ellsberg in a November 2010 Democracy Now! interview, Manning was formerly responsible for administrating the arrests of people who issued “scholarly critiques” against the current administration. As an Army soldier, Manning was part of the U.S. military empire that helped to torture people who would not accommodate its demands in the hopes they would do what they empire wanted. Ellsberg describes Manning who, like Daniel before Nebuchadnezzar, resisted empire. Of Manning vis-à-vis the U.S. empire, Ellsberg says he “chose to say no to it, to expose it, to resist it, to do what he actually should have done. One person out of hundreds of thousands who did that.” This reminds me of Daniel’s refusal to bow down to the King that Nebuchadnezzar demand he worship. The U.S. empire in its hunger for control through militarism is very much like Nebuchadnezzar in the book of Daniel. I am grateful to live to see brave young twenty three year old Bradley Manning bravely resist this empire by refusing to participate in these arrests of people that do not cooperate with this corrupt American empire. Bradley Manning’s commitment to truth and justice is so strong and has rung such a strong chord within me, especially during this Daniel fast I’m on now, that I think of the verse in Mark chapter 10 verse “Can you drink this cup with me?” I have been asking this question about myself and potential friends and partners in my life. Can you endure this cross with me? Can you endure suffering for the cause of truth and justice with me? After joining and hearing the protests in support of Bradley Manning, I believe I can imagine Manning in his confinement asking me, ‘can you endure a suffering for the cause of peace and justice? Can you endure torture when deep down you know you did the right thing to undermine the aggressive over-militarized American empire?’ Manning is answering this question in the affirmative, and if he can answer in the affirmative, then so can I. Manning makes me think directly of Jesus. Not in any sort of Mormon way at all. Just the way of Jesus. When I think about what Manning is going through, I think about what Jesus went through on the cross. Turning over the tables of the money changers. Declaring that the peacemakers are called the children of God. Demanding that the wealthy give up their riches and follow him. I don’t know if Bradley Manning is Christian, but I do know that he has done the most Christian act I’ve seen in my thirty one years so far on this earth. Manning makes me think of Jesus who asks: “Can you drink this cup with me?” Manning has said yes. This reminds me of the fact that some people want the crown but not the cross. They want to reap the benefits of heroism but don’t want to sow the hard work it takes for many to become a hero or heroine. As he is being tortured and forced to stay naked in solitary confinement in a military prison in Quantico, Bradley Manning is enduring the cross right now. Manning leaked the information to WikiLeaks in order to show the inhumane machinations of the American empire that, if not checked, will lead to its downfall. And I applaud him one hundred percent for it. We need to check our excessive ballooning military spending. We need to create more jobs. And stop cutting programs that helping people contribute to a healthy economy. Manning has inspired me to challenge empire in my own way. While Manning challenged empire by releasing documents to WikiLeaks, I choose to challenge empire by lobbying my elected officials as a citizen. Mainly by attending a lobbying conference this weekend. I have to do something. So I choose to lobby my elected officials to NOT support our increasing militarism, among other things. I am sad to say that my U.S. Representative, Chaka Fattah, has supported two supplemental bills for war funding. I am here in the DC area not only to learn from Manning but also to learn from the Quakers. They constitute what I think is the most important religious citizen lobby or, a citizen lobby of faith in their organization, the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL). Although my father taught me very hard not to think in racial terms, I can’t help but look at Bradley Manning, and ask why can’t African American soldiers be arrested for crimes like this? A crime that reflects this extraordinary level of political consciousness? And as I look at the FCNL, I ask why can’t African American churches create a strong religious lobby like the FCNL? Why can’t they work like Dr. King in a concerted, coordinated effort to fight militarism by lobbying elected officials in Washington, the way the FCNL does? The FCNL was founded during the protest of World War II and have continued to speak truth to power in Washington against our increasing militarism. They have a powerful lobbying conference this weekend and I’ve learned so much, particularly from Ruth Flower, their Associate Executive Secretary. She says that in Quaker teachings, we are called to “answer to that of God in everyone…and so we talk with—and listen to—everyone, including people with whom we don’t expect to agree. We converse, trade ideas, share experiences, and leave ourselves open to the possibility that we ourselves will be changed by each encounter.” This is something that I have to practice when I tend to get very angry talking with elected officials or their staff who justify their support of war funding. The Word of God tells us we should be slow to anger. My being here at this conference has given me so much insight about HOW to lobby and that includes NOT dismissing or judging people who seem GIVEN OVER to supporting military intervention but to listen then as soon as I can get my point in and, as Ruth Flower suggested, to leave myself open to the possibility that I might be changed by each encounter. I do not work in the military and do not have the capability to challenge empire the way that Manning did, but I can do what I can and arm myself with information, try and live as the Lord would have me to live and challenge empire the way Jesus did. The way Daniel did. His fasting helped him hear from the Lord and cleared a path between him and God and on today, day #279 of Bradley Manning’s detention who is being denied the niceties of seeing the sun and clouds and conversing with friends and family, I can feel just a portion of what Bradley Manning feels. Manning is being persecuted for telling the truth the way Jesus was persecuted. When I think about Manning’s sacrifice and how such a well-meaning person can be detained, then I can take my life a little more seriously. And so do something. So I choose to ask how I can reduce military oppression and advance work for the kingdom of God. I can support him in this very trying time for him. I continue to pray for his health and sanity, and that he reaches a fair trial where he will expose the inhumane and illegal practices of U.S. empire. In an effort that will ultimately shed light on our unhealthy, increasing militarism in order to put an end to it. Manning is challenging empire. Daniel’s deliverance and the Lord’s ascension shows us the supernatural rewards from God for challenging empire. We don’t do this for the reward, though. The Lord says we have to give without expecting anything in return. We have do right because it is right. Thank you, Bradley Manning, for doing what is right.