Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Pietà for Bradley Manning

The day we said good-bye, I imagined my arms pressed around his body one last time—because we knew none of us would be allowed to touch or to see him again.  We knew years of his young life had been surgically removed.

I wept, not because of what they did to him, not because of the humiliations they heaped on him, not the terror, not the threats, not the torture. I wept because in my mother’s heart, I knew that what they had done to him had robbed him of his tongue.

His pallor told me that, as though the blood, had been drained out, as if to prepare him for burial. I could see his chest moving in the dim light of the room.  But the person who breathed was no longer the one we knew.

It was as if they stood him in a circle with his betrayers and his mockers circling him, stoning him with their observance. I wanted to hold my ears and scream. But I did not.  I wanted to tear my garments, but I remained sitting quietly, my hands folded in my lap. Everything, every word—it was as if every word had been erased, every word he spoke.  Every life he touched had been cut away from him.  Every deed annulled.

I wept because I no longer knew him. The one I loved existed still, but he existed in my heart.  I weep for the spirit, the spirit that has been silenced, for the words, which have been crushed.

In my dreams I extend my arms to this pale young man—a stranger. He breathes, he is still one of us. I hold him to my heart with great love and great compassion. I comfort him, I dress his wounds.

He was twenty-six when we took him down from this cross. When I lost him, I wept.  No matter what they did to him, he is still my son.


  1. Some prisoners, such as Mumia Abu-Jamal, seem to be permitted to continue exercising significant amounts of free speech. Do we know anything about what freedom of speech and press Manning will be entitled to? Has his tongue, in other words, been fully confiscated?

  2. So radiations making our fish glow red
    burning a hole in our head.

    Won’t you please come down to Ocean Beach
    to spell and sing
    Fukushima is here.... 2X

    I had a dream-a
    of all the reactors clicking off,
    from the green mountains of Germany
    to the island of Fukushima.

    In a world aching for solar
    how can such a thing be fair?
    Won’t you please come to Ocean beach
    for the help you can bring there.

    Let the sun shine free,
    shine its ever lasting light on me. Repeat 3X
    Somehow the fish must be set free
    from the radiating sea.

    There is a red sun arising
    over a reactor in America,
    There’s a red sun arising
    over a reactor in Japan.

    Burn on red reactor, burn on , for 100 years
    while I raise a 100 solar panels,
    while I drink a 100 beers.

    I had a dream-a
    about a red reactor burning for 100 years in

    Look at all the happy people
    dancing on Ocean Beach
    dancing on Ocean beach
    for solar power to stop
    GE nukes from burning. Repeat 3X

    When I was young wandering lad,
    my father told me, solar could power the world
    if we gave it a whirl.

    Won’t you please come to Ocean Beach to help us
    to raise solar, to save the fish,
    to save our world.

    Solar can keep Fukushima from exploding again
    if we just dig in and turn nukes off.

    Won’t you come to Ocean Beach to spell out your dreams.

    John Lee & Paul Kangas