Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Danger of Forgetting Chelsea Manning

Image Courtesy of the Washington Post

I am worried that we will forget Chelsea Manning. Currently the verdict has been rendered and the spotlight is on her but after a while the spotlight will dim, the flood of letters and support will become but a trickle, and she will be left alone in the darkness.

Manning was sentenced to prison for a total of 35 years; however, she could be out within as little as eight years.[1] While this may not seem like a long time, we often forget about people rather quickly when they are not being mentioned in the news. Just look at environmental activist Tim DeChristopher who was released from prison just a mere four months ago for disrupting an oil bid. During his time in prison, there was little to no coverage of DeChristopher’s high profile actions or interviews with him and thus people forgot about him.

By allowing ourselves to forget Manning, we will allow her actions and bravery to fade into the memory-hole. Americans have a habit of forgetting the actions of heroes that defy the state or letting these people end up being distorted, dumbed down, and watered down for the purposes of serving the status quo. For evidence of this, one need look no further than Martin Luther King. Many are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the March On Washington and use this time to show King’s I Have A Dream Speech, which makes King out to be a dreamer and ignores the fact that he became more and more radical in the later years of his life.[2] By ignoring the more radical King, it makes him seem as nothing but a dreamer and in this same vain, by forgetting Chelsea Manning, we risk allowing the narrative that she was a traitor and put people’s lives in danger (which are completely false according to the Constitution and the Pentagon) to overtake the reality of the situation, thus allowing Manning’s sacrifice to be in vain.

While it is important to state that those who committed the war crimes will not be receiving time in prison, it is more important to note that the revelations that Manning helped to reveal show 1) the ever-increasing immorality of the US government, 2) the double standard in terms of the justice system, and 3) how many Americans are willing to ignore these immoral and illegal acts in order to side with the national security state.

This siding with the national security state and participating in the demonization of Chelsea Manning is quite dangerous as people side with the very entity that is harming them by destroying their freedoms and disrespecting everything that so many Americans claim to hold dear. It is a dangerous nationalism that has many in such a frenzy to attack Manning. They call themselves patriots, yet ignore the fact that they are supporting a government which has acted in ways that are contradictory to what America claims to stand for.

If we forget Manning, we are, in a way, worse than the government. At least the government let it be known that they wanted to devour Manning, destroy her. They went and treated her “cruel[ly] and inhumane[ly]”[3] for doing her legal duty.[4] The US made no attempts to hide that it wanted Manning to suffer and suffer greatly for the information that had been released and had embarrassed them. If we have supported Manning and then suddenly disappear, we will be worse than the state because we will be abandoning her at the time when she most needs our help, betraying her and revealing that our messages of support were nothing but talk.

We have a habit of forgetting heroes that serve the people rather than the government. We can start to correct this by remembering Chelsea Manning.


1: Keith Wagstaff, “What happens now that Bradley Manning is Chelsea Manning?,” The Week, August 22, 2013 (

2: Kai Wright, “Dr. King, Forgotten Radical,” The American Prospect, April 4, 2008 (

3: Ed Pilkington, “Bradley Manning's treatment was cruel and inhuman, UN torture chief rules,” The Guardian, March 12, 2012 (

4: Majorie Cohn, “Bradley Manning’s Legal Duty to Expose War Crimes,” Truthout, June 3, 2013 (

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