The Fallible & the Accused, Colltalers
The past week offered contrasting views of two public figures, one by choice, the other by fate, that if anything sucked us into a swirl. Outrage, disgust, sadness, or fear, were all rolled up into one big whirlpool of questioning and disconnect with the world we live in.
The farewell rites of the prelate former known as Pope Benedict XVI, with its elaborate stage play of ostentation and deception, was the media’s favorite, of course. But it was at the trial of Pvt. Bradley Manning that the only edifying lessons available were to be found.
While it’s much clearer now that Joseph Ratzinger’s resignation, far from sudden, had been concocted far in advance, with a carefully crafted game plan designed to distract and confuse, much less visible is the real intentions behind the pompous act.
For all the circumstance and luxurious efforts to put up an extended show of voting, Vatican-style, and eventual coronation of the new leader of a billion-plus Catholics, there are at least two shameful issues no amount of riches will be able to cover up.
One, is the calamitous scandal of child abuse at the hands of priests, and the unknown number of victims who have consistently been denied even a feeble acknowledgement from the part of the church. The other, is the possible widespread corruption inside the powerful Vatican bank.
Both issues were closely watched over, albeit behind the scenes, by Ratzinger, who failed in all accounts.
The man, who for years knew of the abuse and sought the strict enforcement of reassignment and denial policies that the church’s adopted to protect the accused, did nothing to protect the victims of this horrible and ultimately ingrained by-product of religious doctrine.
Also, as the long-time head of the Holy Se, the centuries-old successor of the Middle Ages’ scourge, the Inquisition, it’s simply not credible to assume he wasn’t aware of rampant malversation and money laundering activities inside the Vatican’s financial arm.
Despite all that, one of the arguably most uncharismatic leader to have presided over Michaelangelo’s masterpieces, did not hesitate in lashing out at society, often using his bully pulpit to chastise gays, women, and even non-submissive Catholics.
So, of course, he’s a media darling, even if he’ll no longer wear his favorite red shoes. Cosy arrangements of his retirement include not just the life of luxury he’s so happy to indulge, unlike the majority of his flock, but also protection from persecution.
Bradley Manning, on the other hand, will see no lack of persecution, of the military kind, no less, since admitting having leaked classified information from his employers, and that’s the part that the swirl of mixed emotions mentioned on the first graph refers to.
The young soldier who found himself at a moral quagmire as he was honorably serving his country, has offered the world the exact kind of moral rectitude and personal responsibility that Ratzinger’s being celebrated for avoiding.
In a prepared statement, Manning explained the reasons for his actions, why he thought the American public had a right to know what was going on behind closed doors in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, and how he could never live with himself if he had chosen to keep quiet.
Which was, probably in not so many words, the feedback he received when he brought his questioning to his superiors. Even the fake priest, planted by the military, to extract a confession of his evil intent, could not get one, despite all attempts at entrapment.
That included the veiled suggestion of the potential financial windfall Bradley would have, if he wanted to sell the data, something Manning was adamantly against. And unlike many a criminal hack, who does it out of spite, material gain, or personal vendetta, he took steps to be sure no American, uniformed or otherwise, would be harmed by his actions.
Of course, the media is already calling him a traitor, and bullhorning the military line about his character flaws. Just like with most whistleblowers, everyone of his close circle is being made to pay a heavy price. And his statement is likely to be the last we will be hearing of him in his own words too.
Character assassination in progress or not, the fact is that Manning’s statement shows a reasonable cause for calling into question the activities he was witnessing, and his even mindedness when approaching complex subjects such as the right of the public to know against the need for the state to do its job and protect the country. Specially in the age of multifaceted terrorism.
But unlike the financial chiefs of Wall Street who, after bringing the U.S. and the global economy to the brink by their reckless behavior, are now wealthier than ever, Manning will certainly receive the full blast of consequences reserved to dissent in contemporary America.
Even those unsure about the wisdom of his actions, though, have to consider the fact that Manning, as part of tiny but overtapped segment of the U.S. population, routinely asked to fight and die for this country, while the rest of us frolic on YouTube videos, has shown an immense courage.
The trove of documents he made available, via Wikileaks, to pretty much every American who can read, immediately cost him over 1,000 days in jail, even before he was formally accused of anything. But we’re still to see what he was aiming at in the first place.
A national, ample debate over the U.S.’s military priorities in a changing world, in the light of the carnage and completely lack of goals achieved with those two bloody, and still baseless, conflicts, remains an aspiration, at the most.
The only thing these wars that cost thousands of lives, and effectively bankrupted the U.S., both financially, and morally before the world, have demonstrated is that, despite all official withdrawal rhetoric, they won’t end after the last troops pack their weapons.
The outrage, disgust, sadness and fear also refer to what’s painfully evident: Americans seem not to care much about any of that, not even the nuts who flood the mail boxes of everyone with diatribes about personal freedom, as long as you hold your automatic rifle.
We’d hate to break the news to Manning, for he may be sentenced, his life and reputation ruined just like Alfred Dreyfus was over a century ago, while most people will be enthralled with some reality show. Or the coronation of the next pope.
Speaking of Dreyfus, a last finger pointing at the Obama administration, so lax in pursuing financial crimes, and so eager to give free reign to the military to set foreign policy priorities, and to crush dissent from the outside of our judicial system.
Not that Manning, or countless female soldiers brutalized by a widespread culture of rape, or gays, or pretty much every other conscientious objector would find shelter with the Supreme Court, which is currently busy trying to reverse civil rights movement rulings.
But the president, unlike any other, campaigned and campaigned again on democratic ideals that seem to have been trampled and are missing from the court proceedings against Pvt. Manning.
Here’s a constitutional issue he won’t need the GOP approval to put on the table. We wish he wouldn’t miss the opportunity. Have a great one. WC