Blue Valentine

I started watching Blue Valentine at the theater, but Isabel would not stay asleep and so I had to leave, but I wasn’t disappointed to be walking out.  The thing was depressing and I could not get into it.  I wanted to see what happened though, so a few weeks later I began watching again on video at the point I had left off, but stopped because I simply could not get into it.  Finally tonight I decided to finish it so I could get rid of the video.  I’m glad that I did.

Blue Valentine certainly captures the beginning and the end of a bad relationship.  It brings back memories.  Funny, they caught  the things in the beginning that would go wrong later.  Not all of the relationships in my life that have ended started in such a way that the ending could have been predicted, but the ones that have certainly seemed obvious in hindsight.  The performances in Blue Valentine, especially that of Michelle Williams, captured that feeling of the beginning of a relationship you know is bad for you.  You could tell that deep down she knew it wasn’t the best choice, yet she kept on anyway, living in magical thinking while simultaneously knowing she was headed for disaster.  In my case, in the relationship that most closely mirrors that in the film, I knew.  I knew and kept on anyway, compelled by some force within myself to try and make it work.  At times I felt like I was living two lives, one experiencing and one watching mute and helpless as the train headed straight for the ravine with no tracks.

The woman in Blue Valentine seemed to know too.  There were moments of pause before she smiled and responded to Mr. Disaster.  She had that same silence about her that I did in the beginning.  The scene at the dinner table near the end of the film, where she has brought him home to meet her family was a kind of personal deja vu.  The man I introduced to my family wasn’t a high school dropout whose mother had run off with another man at age ten, but the way that he spoke to them and their responses left little doubt that they were just as shocked and wondering What the hell is she doing with this guy?  What the hell, indeed.

There are some movies that are so bleak and without hope, I have no desire to watch them.  However, there are often movies that hurt to experience, and I still think they are worth my time and energy.  I am most certainly not one of those who only goes to see Pollyanna. I didn’t love Blue Valentine–I just could not get drawn in.  Yet it is a good film and I’m glad I saw it.  Even though one may know intellectually that everything experienced is also experienced by others, it does help to be reminded. For me, Blue Valentine was like that.  I’m not the first person on this planet who knew going into a bad relationship that I was making a huge mistake, but I kept on anyway.  One thing I know for sure–and I have reiterated it for myself having watched this film–I will never, ever compromise myself like that again.

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C’est la vie

I have writing ideas all the time and sometimes even start to write them down.  Then my little bug comes and wants to crawl in my lap or wants me to get up and play or wants something, anything, and I get up and give it to her and don’t go back. I’ve lost the writing habit.  It sucks. I love this time when baby is small, but sometimes I worry I will lose my ability to write because I don’t do it anymore.

Such is life.

Free Bradley Manning by William Rivers Pitt

This article can be seen on Truthout here.

Free Bradley Manning

Tuesday 26 April 2011
by: William Rivers Pitt, Truthout

(Photo: thaths [3])

It is dangerous to be right in matters on which established authorities are wrong.

Voltaire

I have a confession to make: I have been on the fence about Bradley Manning as the drama of his detention and the Wikileaks documents have unfolded. While I believe deeply that those who leak classified materials are acting out of conscience and for the good of the people, I also believe criminal acts – even ones of conscience – must be met with punishment as required in any society that wishes to live by the rule of law. Arrest and detention are part of any illegal act of civil disobedience, and are to be expected as the natural consequence of such an act.

Chain yourself to a fence, and expect to be arrested for trespassing. Pour blood on the nose cone of a nuclear missile, and expect to be arrested for destruction of property. The threat of arrest, detention and possible conviction is part of the package that is civil disobedience, and those who take part in it must accept the consequences as part of their act of conscience. Indeed, it is the acceptance of punishment that lies at the heart of that conscience: they are breaking a law to highlight a wrong, are willing to be punished to underscore that wrong, and in doing so, demonstrate how far they are personally willing to go in order to end that wrong and inspire others in the process.

That’s where I’ve been with Bradley Manning – his was an act of conscience that broke the law, and the consequences of that act must be accepted – until now.

How wrong I was.

This situation goes far beyond such a simplistic cut-and-dried viewpoint. It cuts to the core of what we are as a nation, what we wish to be, and what must be done to honor the values we pay so much lip service to, even as we fail time and again to practice what we preach. What Manning has been charged with goes far beyond an act of conscience; they were, in fact, an attempt to save the very soul of these United States.

It is widely considered facile and weak to make Nazi comparisons in any argument, but unfortunately for every citizen of this country, the comparison here is all too apt. During the Nuremberg trials in the aftermath of World War II, accused war criminals were often heard to claim, “I was only following orders,” as a means of justifying their savage and barbaric activities. The excuse was rejected out of hand, further enshrining the idea that soldiers and officers are more than mere automatons who are expected only to do as they are told. Criminal acts, even in a military situation, are not to be condoned, coddled or tolerated. Men were hanged by the judges at Nuremberg to emphasize the point.

And here is Bradley Manning, who like every enlisted American soldier, swore an oath to support, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States against enemies both foreign and domestic, and to bear true faith and allegiance to the same. That same oath requires the oath-taker to follow the orders of the president and superior officers, but if those hanged men at Nuremberg prove anything, it is that unlawful orders are by definition void, and should not be followed if the oath sworn to the Constitution is to mean anything at all.

Make no mistake: the documents Bradley Manning has been accused of leaking are prima facie evidence of illegal orders being given and executed all along the chain of command. This has been made even more abundantly clear with the recent revelation of some 700 pages of documents detailing the ongoing travesty that is America’s detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. According to various reports [4]:

The files depict a system often focused less on containing dangerous terrorists or enemy fighters, than on extracting intelligence. Among inmates who proved harmless were an 89-year-old Afghan villager, suffering from senile dementia, and a 14-year-old boy who had been an innocent kidnap victim.

A number of British nationals and residents were held for years even though US authorities knew they were not Taliban or al-Qaida members. One Briton, Jamal al-Harith, was rendered to Guantánamo simply because he had been held in a Taliban prison and was thought to have knowledge of their interrogation techniques. The US military tried to hang on to another Briton, Binyam Mohamed, even after charges had been dropped and evidence emerged he had been tortured.

The files also detail how many innocents or marginal figures swept up by the Guantánamo dragnet because US forces thought they might be of some intelligence value.

One man was transferred to the facility “because he was a mullah, who led prayers at Manu mosque in Kandahar province, Afghanistan … which placed him in a position to have special knowledge of the Taliban”. US authorities eventually released him after more than a year’s captivity, deciding he had no intelligence value.

Another prisoner was shipped to the base “because of his general knowledge of activities in the areas of Khowst and Kabul based as a result of his frequent travels through the region as a taxi driver“.

The files also reveal that an al-Jazeera journalist was held at Guantánamo for six years, partly in order to be interrogated about the Arabic news network.

(Emphasis added)

Also illuminated in these leaked documents is the shameful use of torture, described through the cruel euphemism of “enhanced interrogation,” that was rampant at Guantanamo Bay. Thanks to such disgraceful practices, the prisoners currently detained there now find themselves in a ridiculous legal limbo; they may be innocent or guilty, but because they were tortured, they cannot be brought to trial because evidence obtained against them was gathered illegally. The Obama administration, like the Bush administration before, refuses to let the legal process do its work, nor are they willing to release these prisoners, so there they sit.

In a filthy irony, Bradley Manning was exposed to a number of grotesquely similar “stress tactics” used against Guantanamo prisoners while detained at Quantico. He was deprived of sleep, humiliated and berated by his captors, isolated, exposed to cold, and made to stand naked for extended periods of time. Such acts are straight out of the War on Terror handbook, and like the prisoners at Guantanamo, were used against a man who has yet to be convicted of anything. The mistreatment tactics against prisoners that Manning allegedly exposed have been used against him, one more crime in a symphony of crimes.

Bradley Manning sits today in Leavenworth prison awaiting a hearing to determine whether or not he will face a court martial. The case against him seems as disorganized and specious as the cases against many of the prisoners at Guantanamo, but let us accept for the moment that he did, in fact, release those classified documents.  If so, he should be thanked for his actions. As Glenn Greenwald so eloquently argued [5], “WikiLeaks is responsible for more newsworthy scoops over the last year than all media outlets combined: it’s not even a close call. And if Bradley Manning is the leaker, he has done more than any other human being in our lifetime to bring about transparency and shine a light on what military and government power is doing.”

Moreover, if there is actually justice to be found in this morally crippled nation, Bradley Manning should be cleared of all charges and released. His was not some casual act of disobedience, nor was it an attack against his country. Bradley Manning was fulfilling the oath he swore to protect and defend the Constitution. He exposed serial criminal acts perpetrated by his superiors, which is a moral necessity for anyone who has taken such an oath.

We know the truth of the acts made by both the Bush and Obama administrations in Guantanamo, and they are illegal on their face. We are a better nation today because we know this, and we have Bradley Manning to thank for it. By exposing war crimes, he has been labeled a criminal even before any hearings have been held. He has been mistreated in a way you would not treat a dog. He showed us the war crimes committed in our name, and has been crushed for it.

Justice demands his release. Furthermore, justice demands a wide inquiry into the criminal acts of both the Bush and Obama administrations as pertaining to the prisoners of Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere. Justice demands prosecution for those acts against the real criminals responsible for them. They have driven our nation into the gutter, and to punish Bradley Manning for attempting to haul us back from that abyss is to admit, in broad daylight and with no shame, that justice has no meaning anymore.

Not Much Done

Yet another day where it is over and I did not finish what I set out to finish.  I did manage to complete one petition and start another, but that is all.  I also made a pot of chickens soup, which is good since all of us are fighting some wretched sore throat that has gone on for days and days.  I actually stayed home and slept half the day away because of it, which really cuts into completing all I wanted to.  No Rosetta Stone.  Nothing on the story I’m writing.  No cello practice.  Very little on the Eric Siblin interview transcript I need to complete.  I played a lot with Isabel.  I spent some time with Milla.  I hope at the end of the day (figuratively), that this is enough.

Corporate Tax Dodgers

Go to this link to sign a petition to congress requesting that they stop all corporate tax havens.  I doubt they will care (I’m a cynic in that regard), but hey, it can’t hurt, right?

The Garden by Joan Miro

I obviously love this painting, I’ve been using it as my page art for a couple of years now.  It is so whimsical.  I can imagine the bird in the tree chirping to the other birds nearby, “This is my place!”  Below, plants sway and lean towards the sun, while insects pause in their grazing.  Hidden beneath fronds another bird waits, dreaming of flowers.  A woman hesitates at the entrance to the garden, surveying all that lies before her. The sun, a star, gazes overhead.

Wedding Candles by Marc Chagall

This is such a perfect, whimsical celebration!  The couple moves through the town, candles flickering, the cellist and drummer play, angel goat watches, drinking red wine, birds dance while couples embrace. What more could you ask for on your wedding day?