Bradley Edward Manning is an interesting character.
He is a former member of the United States Army, having been court-martialed and convicted of, among other things, violating the Espionage Act of 1917. He is a political activist, having leaked nearly 750,000 classified or otherwise sensitive military and diplomatic documents to WikiLeaks. As a result, he was charged with 22 crimes, including aiding the enemy. That offense alone could have resulted in the death penalty. In 2013, he was sentenced to 35 years in prison.
On January 17th, 2017, President Obama commuted Manning’s sentence, requiring the erstwhile soldier to remain imprisoned for only four months.
Now a free man, he doesn’t live as such.
In fact, he sports lipstick and calls himself “Chelsea.”
An interesting character, indeed.
What makes Manning even further interesting is his recent decision to vie for a seat in the U.S. Senate.
In January, the 30-year-old high-heeled lightning rod registered for the race in Maryland, taking aim at 74-year-old incumbent Ben Cardin, who will be seeking his third term. Like Cardin, Manning will be running as a Democrat (of course; he isn’t that interesting).
And so: old man in a suit, versus young man in a dress.
Years ago, that contest would’ve had the makings of a landslide. Perhaps it will in November, as well. But what of 10 years from now?
Manning certainly has a cheering section already in place. In June of last year, Yahoo Style oohed:
“Famed fashion photographers Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin have worked with some of the most famous names in the fashion and entertainment industries. The Dutch duo recently added a new name to their portfolio: the controversial — and up until recently, rather elusive — Chelsea Manning. … Inez and Vinoodh are used to handling high-profile clientele, as they’ve worked with stars such as Lady Gaga, Clint Eastwood, Bono, Kate Moss, and Tom Cruise.”
“The buzz surrounding the unveiling of Manning’s public image in the magazine could be compared to Caitlyn Jenner‘s introduction as a transgender woman in Vanity Fair‘s July 2015 cover story.”
To be clear, I think Manning should dress however he wants, applying blush until his heart is content. I make no judgment here; it’s a free country. But what about the controversial figure’s political platform? Like his rap sheet, it’s extreme, to say the least. According to The Daily Mail, his priorities are thus:
- Close prisons and free inmates.
- Eliminate national borders; restructure the criminal justice system.
- Provide universal healthcare and basic income.
- Abolish the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a federal agency created in 2003 that Manning asserts is preparing for an ‘ethnic cleansing.’
That list may seem silly, but it should serve as cold water to the face of our political consciousness. With the possible exception of the first point above, each one of those bullets represents a position pushed by some sector of the far Left within the past two years. The second item was a rallying cry among certain impassioned radicals during — and even before — the 2016 election; the third is right at home in the utopian world of Bernie Sanders; the fourth was endorsed by a March 13th editorial in The Washington Post. Bullets may be a good word for them, because these ideas are, like the fanatical far Left, a dangerous force. And the country — or, at least, a contingent of the Democratic Party — appears to be moving toward them. As the Left shifts, presumably, so will the center, along with the Right. In that case, the political sphere is marching into a hail of lead, but we aren’t stronger than a bullet. And if an S resides on the chest of our ideological embodiment, it doesn’t stand for Super, but rather, Suicide. The self-inflicted ruin of a nation.
Chelsea Manning is an interesting character. But not nearly as interesting as he should be; if we aren’t careful, the political beliefs to which he subscribes — once thought to be on the ideological outskirts — will, like his clothing and makeup, meet cultural absorption. And if that indeed is our destiny, then the future — like Bradley/Chelsea Manning’s presentation of himself, herself, themself — is really going to be a drag.