by: Timothy Villareal on July 31st, 2013 | 5 Comments »
That a military judge, Denise Lind, would even have to consider a charge against American hero and truth-teller, Bradley Manning, that Manning “aided the enemy” speaks volumes about the warped institution that claims to defend our country from foreign enemies, even as it has become a collective expert in creating new enemies for the American people.
Often overlooked, however, in discussions on PFC Manning and our current military enlistment system are the warped American parents who push their adult children into the Sparta subculture called the U.S. military. In a 2011 interview with PBS’s Frontline, Manning’s father, Brian, gave a crystal clear description of his thinly veiled contempt for his child, which doubtless shaped the trajectory of Manning’s young life.
Before signing up for the U.S. military, Manning moved to Chicago to try to get a fresh start. Manning landed a job at a guitar shop right away, and called home to tell Brian how happy that made him. Here’s what Manning’s father said about it in the Frontline interview:
And he told me, you know, in conversations while I’ve been up here, talking to him, he said, “Dad, you wouldn’t believe how easy it is for me to get a job.” He said, “With my background and my experience,” he says, “I can just walk into a place and immediately I get a job.” So that’s kind of his ego coming in there. It’s like, “Hey, I’m a really sharp kid, and I know it.”
(Memo to the Gallup Poll people: Please conduct a poll ascertaining what percentage of parents of enlisted service members believe they have adult children who have egos that are simply too big, and need to be cut down to size. Oh, and Gallup people, if you want the truth, you might have to be as intrepid about how you ask the question as the parents try to be in concealing their contempt for their adult children, Kleenex tissues in hand and all.)
After Chicago, Bradley decided to move to suburban Washington, D.C. and pursue taking classes at Montgomery Community College in Rockville, MD while working part-time at a Starbucks. It’s an honest, respectable life track that is common to millions upon millions of young adults in America trying to make their way in the world. Brian Manning, however, thought that Bradley, in addition to being a major egotist, was also a major loser. Here’s what Manning’s father told the Frontline interviewer about the community college-Starbucks phase of Bradley’s life:
I was talking to him by phone, yeah. … I said: “Bradley, you’re really not going anywhere, you know? You haven’t got transportation. You’re working in a coffee shop and maybe going to go to community college. You really don’t have any structure in place.” And I said: “If you get into a place at Army, you know, you’re going to have three square meals a day; you’re going to have a place to sleep and a roof over your head. And as long as you follow the path, you know, it’s all you have to do.”
Brian Manning, of course, did not seem to care that his son might get his head blown off in Iraq.
Asked by Frontline how he eventually got Bradley to go see the military recruiter, Brian Manning replied:
He was at the point where he was seeing some of my logic in that: “You don’t have a place to live. You’re camping at your aunt’s house. You don’t have any transportation. You’re working at a dead-end job, and you’re looking at going to a community college that you won’t even have transportation to and from. What’s your plan?”
(Note to readers: Washington D.C. and suburbs have one the more advanced metrorail and public bus services in the country that millions of passengers use every day.)
So eventually — I can’t say I convinced him to go in. “Just go talk to them,” was basically what I said. And I will just have to say that I would assume from my own experience that the recruiter took over from there, based on my own experience. I mean, they can be pretty convincing. That’s their job.
Yeah, that’s their job, alright.
Like so many young adults in similar circumstances, and who have no other adult in their lives to affirm their basic worth and dignity as a human being, Manning signed up for the military.
Thus, for Private Manning, after trying to find some modicum of stability in life, and with a father who assaulted his child’s character and sense of self-worth every step of the way, it was off to the U.S. Army – and off to Iraq.
It boggles both mind and heart that so many parents of these young adults actually encourage – or even push – their sons and daughters to join the military, knowing full well they will be risking life, limb, and PTSD in wars of choice that the rest of the citizenry completely ignores.
When a young person has been confronted with the humiliation of homelessness – as Manning was – and a parental figure who assiduously attempts to brainwash their adult child into believing that the justification for their very existence is an entirely conditional proposition, many of these youngsters will simply cave in, just as Manning did. They will surrender to U.S. military recruiters whose respect for the sanctity of human life is just as nonexistent as the parents who sent them there.
Yet there was a core problem with Manning that those recruiters, in their haste to get another body enlisted, failed to grasp: namely, despite the cavalcade of psychological traumas he had already endured in his young life, Manning was developing a higher moral conscience every step of the way.
Yet you would never know that by listening to his father’s very public attempt to smear Manning’s character in the national media in the early days of the Manning saga, even as he deftly made sure to portray himself as a caring father without an ounce of malice -even once going so far as to remind the American public in an NPR interview that he paid both Manning’s car insurance bill and AAA bill.
Then again, what can we really expect from a baby-boomer parent who is demonstrably more psychologically at ease with the possibility of his adult child getting his head blown off in Iraq or Afghanistan, than with having the same adult child live at home or with an aunt as he attends community college?
In a very real way, there is a mental symmetry between the parents who share this particular profile and the generals who send these young Americans off to battle: they will glorify themselves and their own characters to no end, while convincing the young people under their influence that the only way to justify their very existence is to surrender themselves to a war machine if they want a roof over their head and three square meals a day.
If we are ever to consider America a civilized country, we have to end,by way of constitutional reform,the societal influence of these thugs.
When Manning is sentenced this week, we ought to have two moments of silence. The first should be a moment of silence for the travesty that an American hero who helped bring an end to the worst foreign policy disaster since Vietnam, and perhaps since the founding of our nation, will spend even one day in prison.
The second moment of silence should be a quiet moment of reflection for the rest of us, in which we ask ourselves this question: How can we as citizens do a better job of resisting the thugs in our society who have proven so adept at brainwashing millions of young people that their lives have no meaning or value unless they become cannon fodder?
Timothy Villareal is Miami-based writer. His website is http://timothyvillareal.