What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sound of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants brass fronted impudence; your shout of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanks-givings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy -- a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States, at this very hour.I don't believe any speech better embodies the spirit of patriotism, nor honors the principles of the Declaration of Independence better; yet it is almost entirely negative and critical. Did Frederick Douglass "hate America?"
It's important to remember this manner of honoring the 4th of July: especially so in a United States that lets torturers walk free while whistleblowers are persecuted.
The morality at play in the Manning persecution is mangled beyond belief. It's perfectly conventional wisdom that the war in Iraq was an act of profoundly unjust destruction, yet normal, psychologically healthy people are expected to passively accept that there should be no consequences for those responsible (a well-intentioned policy mistake), while one of the very few people to risk his life and liberty to stop it and similar acts is demonized as a mentally ill criminal. Similarly, the numerous acts of corruption, deceit and criminality Manning allegedly exposed are ignored or even sanctioned, while the only punished criminal is -- as usual -- the one who courageously brought those acts to light. Meanwhile, Americans love to cheer for the Arab Spring rebellions -- look at those inspiring people standing up to their evil dictators and demanding freedom -- yet the American government officials who propped up those dictators for decades and helped suppress those revolts, including the ones currently in power, are treated as dignified statesmen, while a person who actually exposed those tyrants and played at least some role in triggering those inspiring revolts (Manning) rots in a prison after enduring 10 months of deeply inhumane treatment.Or, as Henry David Thoreau put it:
There's no doubt that it's illegal for a member of the military to leak classified or secret documents -- just as there was no doubt about the illegality of Daniel Ellsberg's leaks, or a whole slew of other acts of civil disobedience we consider noble. The fact that an act is legal does not mean it is just, and conversely, that an act is illegal does not mean it is unjust. Many people enjoy hearing themselves condemn the acts of tyrants and imperial forces in the world. If the allegations against him are true, Bradley Manning knowingly risked his liberty to take action against those acts, in the hope of exposing those responsible and triggering worldwide reforms. It's hard to dispute that these leaks achieved exactly that, but even if they hadn't, his conduct is profoundly commendable, and the world needs far more, not fewer, Bradley Mannings.
Must the citizen ever for a moment, or in the least degree, resign his conscience to the legislation? Why has every man a conscience, then? I think that we should be men first, and subjects afterward. It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right.