August 23rd, 2013


Take him away

I have no doubt that Bradley Manning is a disturbed individual. For that, he deserves some sympathy. However, if Bradley wanted to be Chelsea all along, then entering the U.S. Army and releasing classified information was not a smart way to fulfill his desire. Perhaps the two halves of him were there all along, the private one that wanted to be Chelsea and the public one that thought he could betray his trust and see himself as some kind of hero. But how can one believe what he says?

In his conduct as a soldier, he practiced deception in a particularly self-righteous way. Now that he has been convicted of espionage, his announcement of transgenderism seems opportunistic, manipulative, of a piece with his earlier conduct. For that matter, I do not believe his apology was sincere, except that he sincerely desired a lighter sentence. His life and persona are a house of mirrors, a set of lies within lies; or, if you prefer, fantasies within fantasies.

It is not hate I feel toward Manning; rather, he fills me with horror. The most sympathetic view one could have of him is of a tortured individual, living with conflicts he cannot resolve, not being able to know or tell what the truth is, even about himself. The least sympathetic view one could have of him is that he has forfeited any regard beyond 3 meals a day and a lonely cot to sleep on for the duration of his sentence.

I remember reading the autobiography of Christine Jorgensen forty years ago, with curiosity but not revulsion. Christine was born George Jorgensen and was drafted into the Army at the end of World War II. He served honorably and upon discharge began the journey that led to her new identity. Whatever one thinks of Jorgensen's life decisions, it is clear that she led a life of integrity. Whatever one thinks of Manning's various claims, it is clear that he has not.

So after he gets out, he can get back to becoming Chelsea, if he still wants to. Me, I just don't want to hear his name -- or her name -- ever again. Let him serve out his sentence and then go figure life out somewhere out of the public eye. And assuming that he doesn't cause any more ruckus after he gets out, then I don't care how he does it.

(Meanwhile, the bigger question is, of course, why couldn't Manning's superiors recognize his personality flaws? How were they so blind that someone this disturbed didn't ring any warning bells with anybody? We trusted our nation's secrets to this very young, very troubled person. Who thought that was a good idea?)