Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Bradley Manning's Struggle

Bradley Manning, the Army private charged with leaking documents to Julian Assange for his web site Wiki Leaks, is in the process of pre-trial hearings to determine whether or not his case will proceed to court martial. If that happens the 24 year old could be sentenced to spend the rest of his life behind bars if those hearings determine he was a traitor releasing information that could compromise the US government.

But to many of us, both straight and gay, Manning along with Assange are heroes. They follow in the whistle-blower tradition of Daniel Ellsberg who has called Bradley Manning a patriot and Julian Assange a hero. 

The conditions under which Manning has been detained have been the subject of worldwide controversy. Extended solitary confinement, sleep deprivation, no access to exercise or any comfort items like pillows or sheets are just bullet points on the list of his inhumane, soul-destroying detention. In part, because of Manning, the world community is reconsidering defining solitary confinement as torture.

Now, Manning's future is on the line and one of the pillars of his defense involve his gay identity. This strategy is to paint him as an "emotionally troubled homosexual of the don't ask, don't tell era." Although much of the leftist media seems to be stumbling over this one, as an open lesbian, I don't find it at all contradictory or politically incorrect.

The truth of our lives as queer folk is that they are more difficult and challenging than the lives of heterosexuals from the gate. We face far greater obstacles when it comes to self-esteem, confidence and interaction in general, whether socially or at work. I am sure that for Manning to reconcile the fact of his otherness in an openly hostile environment like the military, was a soul-wrenching and complicated endeavor. Oppression damages everyone, but it is particularly corrosive to the folks on the receiving end. 

Best of luck Mr. Manning, the thoughts and good will of the many are with you.