Curtain Raiser

Rough Season for the Unlucky Few, Colltalers

It’s been a scorching summer in the Northern Hemisphere, in what may be a sight of increasing climate changes to come. Of course, many Americans are complaining about. Hardly they know, however, albeit they should, that the going has been many times tougher to at least five groups of people.
For it’s been terrible, possibly even the worst of times, if you happen to be a whistleblower, or an investigative journalist, a young black male, a child, or a member of the troops in Afghanistan. We’ll leave the thousands of villagers caught in the crossfire of drones and Al Qaeda operatives off this list for now.
As the hardly followed (if you, like most Americans, get your news only from TV) trial of Pvt. Bradley Manning draws to a conclusion, a sinking feeling that he’ll lose, and so everyone who thought that being in the know and government transparency are unalienable rights, is turning into pure dread.
Even if they haven’t broken this young military man, and we do hope he’ll have at least one fair chance to speak to the American people, his life is all but over, destroyed not because he stole, murdered, denigrated or dishonored country and society, but because he tried to reveal truths about the government.
Equally sad is the Edward Snowden’s case. Even those who may question, in whatever grounds, his revelations about the massive and secret U.S.-sanctioned surveillance system, have acknowledged his courage and willingness to lose so much to tell his story. But no one expects him to win this tug of war.
For the man stranded in a Russian airport, unable to accept the invitation of nations willing to grant him residence, his lifetime sentencing is already on. Along with Manning, the only Americans they managed to hurt were themselves, and despite unmasking an ugly facet of the Obama administration, chances are they won’t be able to get their prescient warning about what the U.S. is fast becoming to their fellow citizens; not if the media can help it, anyway.
That hasn’t prevented the majority of Americans from considering them both whistleblowers, not traitors as the DoJ and the Army would prefer. As such, they join a few contemporary citizens being charged with leaking sensitive information, a group bigger than those targeted by all previous administrations combined.
Almost by extension, it’s also been a dangerous time for reporters covering stories deemed inconvenient to the powers that be, and the case of NY Times Jim Risen is a template for such state of affairs: he’s been forced to testify in the criminal trial of a former CIA official who leaked classified information to him.
Again, that such information, as it happened with Snowden’s, is common currency to anyone who’s an Internet connection is, apparently, beside the point. The Obama administration is bent on making him an example that a journalist has no right to keep secret sources, even in the name of informing the public.
Since that’s one of the tenets of the profession, and freedom of the press to inform the public is a pillar of any democracy, this trial, and Risen being dragged to it, bodes poorly to the U.S. Any smell of retaliation, for Risen’s previously reported extensively on the NSA, is unlikely to be coincidental.
Another group that seems to be having yet another tragic summer is, of course, that of young black males. Unfortunately for him and his family, the template of the year seems to be Trayvon Martin, the unarmed teenager shot in Florida by a vigilante, who’s just beat a pro-forma trial and now walks free among us.
For the record, though, blacks have been having bad summers, let’s face it, for 400 years already. Dropping the hyperbole, however, urban African Americans do constitute both the majority of the incarcerated U.S. population and most murder victims, according to a recent Columbia University study.
Martin’s case, and its spectacularly myopic trial resolution, is but the rule that confirms the cliche: race plays the biggest role as cause for violent confrontations in the streets of America, with class inequality coming in at close second. Few were as cruel as the one Martin faced, but that’s another story.
If you were a child under 10, part of this sad demographics axis of racial ‘minority’ and underprivileged class, though, things would get even bleaker: apart from the risk of being shot (did we mentioned that most murders are caused by guns? another story, we know), you could also starve to death.
While a 2010 Children’s Defense Fund study found that over 15 thousand kids had been hurt by guns – which was then three times the number of U.S. troops killed in Afghanistan – the World Hunger organization is not happy to add that 13 million American children are at risk of having nothing to eat today.
They’re part of the almost 40 million citizens of the world’s richest nation who may not have had a decent meal in many days, and have no idea when or what they’ll eat next. It’d be a macabre but important exercise to calculate who among these 13 million will survive to become a productive member of society.
Finally, since we mentioned Afghanistan, last month, while unfortunately almost no one was looking, was the deadliest month for international troops since September, as at least 27 died. No word yet on the number of civilian casualties, but we can safely assume that it’s some multiple of that number.
Considering that it corresponds to just a month, in a long, decade-long senseless war; that these were, Americans or not, parents, sons and daughters of families that won’t possibly ever recover from their losses; and above all, as we said, hardly anyone was paying attention, this is indeed a grim piece of statistics.
Grim and sad and hot and humid as this summer has been, even for those of us who simply love the heat and everything that comes with it. Our pain and discomfort are truly jokes, though, compared to the immense desolation that these five groups of people have been facing lately.
As many of them won’t be around, or free, or in a position to continue their work and lives the next time the thermometer hits 100, the least that the lucky rest of us can do is to honor and support their existence, even if in the smallest possible way. That’s the only way many of us can do anything, anyway.
One may do something just by learning the facts, cross-checking the stories, finding out more about ethics in the workplace, and labor rights, and race relations in America, and programs to eradicate hunger, and ways to bring our troops home and help them recover from that nightmare.
Perhaps President Obama himself made us a bit more mistrustful of big gestures and grand statements. His administration is being sadly marked by his undoubtedly rousing rhetoric, as his speech on the Martin case last week confirmed again, and some truly scary and arguable actions behind the curtains. Thus we may be on our own to bringing the right perspective to these extraordinary times, when we’re forced to question whether our so precious safety and supremacy as a superpower is really worth giving up even basic rights to dissent and demand social justice.
For our now light readers, the open invitation to stop by at anytime at Colltales won’t be rescinded. Ever. For those to whom this is their first time, such invitation is now officially extended, no RSVP necessary. But for everybody else, though, please stop complaining about the weather already. Have a great one.  WC

3 thoughts on “Curtain Raiser

  1. WordsFallFromMyEyes says:

    A solemn post indeed, Wesley. I don’t know anything of Pvt. Bradley Manning. Why does some stuff make news and some stuff doesn’t, I always wonder.

    I watched a video about Patrick Tillman. Absolutely CRIMINAL, and the way the military acted afterwards, backed by the govt: UTTERLY FOUL. I would have been just exactly like his mother in search for truth, were it my boy. Foul, foul, foul.


  2. eremophila says:

    Very well said. Hear hear.


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