Pte Manning’s whistleblowing through Wikileaks was a defining moment in the human journey from secrecy and cover-up to transparency and honesty, one which continues as others like Edward Snowden continue his example of making public what national governments wish to keep hidden, usually because it would be embarrassing or scandalous, occasionally for reasons of security. The handling of the case of Bradley Manning has been divisive and informative, with many Americans demanding the harshest judgment for his betrayal and also to act a deterrent to other potential whistleblowers, while other people have been shocked by the draconian nature of his treatment over many months and the prejudice against him from the start: the image of a fair and liberal America has been tainted and many observers there and in other parts of the world are disturbed.
Each of us chooses our path, based on our values. Our reaction to the Manning affair gives us a good indication of who we are and what are our guiding beliefs, which might be: judgment or tolerance; prejudice or fairness; secrecy or openness; security or privacy; the status quo or reform; government autocracy or real democracy; arrogance or humility; risk-taking or risk-averse; and coldness or compassion. There is no right or wrong in this choice of qualities, but all have been exposed through the Bradley Manning story, which is not ended yet – a story that reveals a lot about society as well as ourselves.
Meanwhile a clever young man who may have been naïve, misguided, or heroic, but who loved Lady Gaga and whose life was just beginning, faces the rest of his life in prison. He hurt no-one, and whatever the rights and wrongs of his deeds, I feel so sorry for him, and for his family, and I know I am not alone.