I don’t make it any secret that I am a former three-time felon. And you won’t see me argue me against the particular justice that was served to me because I was, in fact, a danger to myself and others. I broke the laws against theft and violence. I own that history publically. I learned one (among many) very important lesson while I was there. I learned that it is only the criminal who expects to be rewarded for common, decent behavior. We criminals live a life of rationalizations and excuses, shifting blame from target to target while preying on anyone that gives us a way into their lives in order to fulfill our own selfish wants. That’s what we do. But when we clean up for a few months and tow the line, suddenly we brighten up with our chest out expecting a pat on the head.
Meanwhile, the rest of society is looking at us like we are stupid. But I will let you in on something. It is the real criminals that achieve exactly that response.
Kind of like ex-president Obama. I say that because I want to remind the GSM community at large that while it was an act of mercy by the President that he commuted her sentence, it can never right the wrong that was inflicted upon Chelsea Manning, a transgender woman, and heroic whistleblower. Because of Barack Obama, she was forced to undergo her transition under the absolute worst possible conditions. I am not transgender, but I do know that the decision and process of transition is in no way easy and transgender people need the love and support of their friends, family, and wider GSM community. Chelsea was denied all of that because she did what any trans person does in their life in one way or another, and that is stand on the damn truth come what may.
And we almost lost her. She tried to commit suicide not once, but twice. And was forced to undergo a hunger strike to get her right to medical treatment. All the while, the leaders of our nation are denouncing her as a traitor, commenters on the Left and the Right calling her into question as an “attention seeker” for “suddenly becoming transgender” once she was in prison, and the media that should have taken our president to task either disparaged her sacrifice or entirely ignored her.
To the credit of GSM people, we did not forget her struggle, and should not consider Obama to be heroic or noble for ending a seven-year long nightmare that he himself is responsible for inflicting on her. He is not to be praised for doing the right thing. That’s what we do for criminals. Let us not forget that the right thing would have been to investigate the material in the leaks and apply the law. That did not happen. Chelsea showed us the truth of Obama’s war, a truth a free country is entitled to, and our government threw her into prison. It was a vile, treacherous, odious thing to do to a young person who showed a superhuman willingness to self-sacrifice for the sake of her country.
And in the end, as Chelsea moves forward to face a life of uncertainty as one of the most famous felons in recent history, where is her justice? Who is to be accountable for what was done to her in order to protect a criminal under the guise of national security? As usual in this country, the powerful walk away without a scratch and the common pay the price.
Chelsea Manning is a name the GSM community should never forget. She is a hero of our movement, which has been at its essence, a movement for truth. I for one will remember her sacrifice and celebrate her heroism. I will take joy in her freedom. But I will never forget the injustice.
Please support her welcome home fund @
-Barton W. Rice is a libertarian political activist and commentator out of Dayton, OH. He has been active in the fight for GSM liberation since his coming out in 1992 and a vocal libertarian since 2003.