Join the Pardon Chelsea Manning Facebook group.
Hi, y’all. Jacob here. I’m in the process of applying for a permit to protest outside the White House for Chelsea Manning’s pardon, and will post details as they come into being. Since I want to avoid making assumptions about what all you lovely individuals think, or inadvertently inviting assumptions about what I think, I want to explain a little about why I plan to stand in front of a fence for a few hours the day before Thanksgiving instead of traveling to see my family for moist turkey, hot gravy, cool cranberries, and old gripes:
I was a cheerleader for Obama from the first time I read about him in 2003, even before his big 2004 convention speech put him into the national spotlight. I kept cheering all the way through his election as president in 2008, and through 2009 and even into 2010, despite my frustrations at his inability or unwillingness to close sites like Gitmo and Bagram. This frustration grew and grew with news of the increase in use of drones by the CIA (which has very little in the way of transparent oversight mechanisms when it comes to “military” force, which is supposed to be the purview of the actual military, who have at least a structure for oversight in place, which force is technically subject to [so-far and so-long absent] congressional declarations of war). My frustration has grown exponentially as it has become clear that our meta-data and actual communications (texts, calls, emails, etc.) are subject to warrantless surveillance at the approval of the rubber-stamping secret FISA court. And I just can’t make 2+2=4 when I juxtapose that universal and arbitrary capability to snoop on American citizens, in direct contravention of the core of our rights as citizens, as enshrined in part by the Fourth Amendment to our Constitution, with the muscular attempts by our government to silence whistle-blowers and leakers to journalists – people who are only calling our attentions to actual crimes of violence – with aggressive agendas of prosecution and, in Chelsea (née Bradley) Manning’s case, with excessively punitive terms of incarceration.
Now, I know that it isn’t just Obama who is to blame, as there is a long list of names ahead of his own who bear some responsibility for the fact that Yemen has weapons from the US military, the fact that American soldiers regularly gun down unarmed humans, & etc., but right now he is the Commander-in-Chief, he is the Executive Branch, he is the face of American force and justice. And he could, were he disposed to do so, follow through on his long-ago promises of transparency and stop the aggressive streak of prosecutions against whistle-blowers, some of whom are only doing the work Obama promised to do in the first place: stop these “wars” that seemingly have no boundaries in time or space.
There is more, so much more, but my thinking about this planned protest boils down to this: Part of the responsibility for the terrible things Manning revealed is mine, for being too jaded and silent for too many years, so I will spend a little of my free time in pursuit of a pardon for a soldier, an American, who has already served plenty of time in prison under sometimes abjectly inhumane conditions – all for helping the world see a little bit more of the truth it might have been content to ignore. Vain as it is, a protest seems to me a better, a more constructive, use of my time than to continue to let my disillusionment and anger fester, or, worse, dissipate. If you want to join me, we’ll make a plan and shout until our vain attempts are hoarse whispers at the gates. But at least we will have done some righteous hollering for something worth the strain. And maybe, just maybe, a gall-durned turkey won’t be the only lucky soul to earn a reprieve this November.