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Dr. King and Bradley Manning Show the Way to a Revolution of Values

By mflowersmd - Posted on 17 January 2011

Today I stood with 200 activists at the gates of Quantico Marine Base to protest the imprisonment and torture of a young patriot, Bradley Manning, who has not been convicted of any crime. It was the right way to spend the day set aside to remember Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Manning, 23, is alleged to have provided Wikileaks with documents that expose war crimes and other unethical behaviors being committed by the United States. He reportedly first went to his commanding officer when he saw that Iraqis were being imprisoned and tortured at the behest of the US military for simply publishing a document which questioned where the money went in Iraq. He was told to get back to work. Apparently when he saw more evidence of war crimes, he felt that the American public must know what is being done in its name. Manning is said to have joined the military because he believed in his country.

Many of us held photos of Manning and signs that said, “I am Bradley Manning.” In essence, each of us who love our country and who speak out for the betterment of the United States are brothers and sisters of young Manning. And sadly, each of us who does speak out risks consequences of imprisonment like Manning.

We started the day at the FBI headquarters in Washington to protest the treatment of peace and justice activists who have had their homes raided, their private property stolen and who are facing an investigation by a Grand Jury. In some cases, these social justice groups had been infiltrated by undercover FBI agents for as long as 2 ½ years. This is what our tax dollars fund: domestic spying on peaceful social justice activists.

And this is what killed Dr. King. He was assassinated for speaking out against the American Empire. His words threatened to inspire a movement that would challenge the profits of the military-industrial complex. Dr. King was assassinated by our own government as was revealed in a wrongful death trial held in 1999.

It takes courage to speak out against the great corporate interests in this nation be they the military-industrial complex, the financial institutions or the healthcare-industrial complex. Not everyone has the courage to do so. I am driven by the words of Dr. King when he said “to be silent is to be complicit.”

I cannot be silent when tens of millions of people in the U.S. have no health insurance. I cannot be complicit when tens of thousands are suffering, when tens of thousands die of preventable causes, when families go bankrupt and lose their homes because of medical illness. I cannot be silent when health professionals are being driven out of practice by the insatiable greed of corporate health care.

I take comfort in the fact that I am not alone and that there is strength in numbers. Today we were told that we could only protest across the street from the base at Quantico. We chose not to obey that order and instead marched across the street and right through the gates chanting “Free Bradley Manning!” There were a few marines and police officers stationed at the street and gate to stop us. They held up their hands and told us to stop but we did not hesitate and marched on through.
Likewise, there is strength in numbers if the peace and social movements join together to speak out against the concentrated corporate power that controls our government and our media. Together we can create the changes we so desperately need. Together we can raise our voices so high that we cannot be ignored.

Let us remember that Dr. King was more than a leader of the civil rights movement. He also advocated for those living in poverty and spoke out against the Vietnam War. When he began to speak out against the war, he was questioned why he did that instead of focusing on civil rights. King responded in his speech at the Riverside Church in New York City:

“And when I hear them, though I often understand the source of their concern, I am nevertheless greatly saddened, for such questions mean that the inquirers have not really known me, my commitment or my calling. Indeed, their questions suggest that they do not know the world in which they live.”

Dr. King went on to link all of the movements for peace and justice at home and abroad and to call for a radical revolution of values. He said that we must move from a “thing-oriented society” to a “person-oriented society.”

I urge you on this great day of remembrance to hear the words of Dr. King and to do what you can to create a just society and world. Speak out against injustice wherever you may see it. Use your money wisely to support local goods and services rather than multinational corporations who rob us of our health and wealth. Join in protest when you are able.

To reach the revolution of values of which Dr. King speaks we must build a culture of non-violent resistance to the status quo. We must not be silent. We must not be complicit. We must join the movements for peace, health care, jobs, education, housing and human rights. We can succeed together.

"Manning is said to have joined the military because he believed in his country." Then he was naive. Fortunately, I guess, my experiences with racism here in the nation of my birth have beat the naivete right out of me. And why should believing in your country--if that is accurate--translate into killing for it...or rather, the multi-national corporations that run it? Everyone learns how to shoot, kill, and scream "blood makes the green grass grow" in basic training.

Manning is described here as a "young patriot." Yet, if Manning acted from his conscience, then he should have been acting from a place of humanity--not nationalism, as Dr. Flowers describes. If he did act out of nationalistic pride rather than common decency, then the comparison to Dr. King is not only over the top. It is obscene.

Dr. Flowers writes, "In essence, each [sic] of us who love our country and who speak out for the betterment of the United States are brothers and sisters of young Manning." I've got no love for our history of genocide on this continent. I've got no love for 400+ years of slavery. I've got no love for a document that gave rights to white male property owners and declared a black man worth 3/5ths of a white man. I've got no love for a country that slaughters innocents to satisfy corporate greed. I've got no love for a country that trains its young men and women in racism, misogyny, and homophobia and teaches them "Thou Shalt Kill." I'm not proud of what this country represents to the rest of the world. I am not, nor do I plan to ever be, a good German. And I don't speak out only for the betterment of the United States and its 300,000,000 people, when we share the globe with over six billion more.

I am not Bradley Manning, smiling in uniform with the adorable, rosy-cheeked, all-American looking face. I'm the swarthy Muslim guy being tortured to death in Abu Ghraib. I'm the brown Muslim woman being raped by U.S. soldiers while peace movement eyes are focused on Manning.

I firmly believe that there is enough room in our scope of vision--and compassion in our hearts--for them all.

Dahlia - I appreciate your words. I am not saying that we are Bradley Manning because of his appearance or that fact that he is a soldier. That has nothing to do with it. Bradley allegedly exposed war crimes that are being committed by our country so that the public would know about them and try to put an end to them. It it his courage to speak out at the expense of imprisonment and torture that moves us, of his humanity. This is why those in the peace movement are trying to help him. We hope that others will speak out, refuse to join the service, refuse to follow orders when they are told to kill and rape, refuse to shut their eyes on the abuse of human beings. Many of us spoke to the Marines at Quantico who were sent out to stop our protest. We told them that they were being lied to, that they had the ability to act out of conscience and integrity rather than blindly following orders. Protesting Bradley's imprisonment is one part of what the peace movement does, as you know. I participated in and was arrested at the White House in Dec. protesting war. I am joining others in the peace movement to continue escalate the protests against war. Others are traveling to Iraq, to Afghanistan and to Palestine.

I agree with you that we must have compassion for everybody.

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