Ask Mrs. Vera: Should PFC Bradley Manning have received 35 years in jail or a medal?

Dear Mrs. Vera,

Should PFC Bradley Manning have received 35 years in jail or a medal?

Regards, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
Tunguska Hollow, Cloud Heaven

Mrs Vera with onion rings.

Mrs. Vera Newman,
San Francisco, California.
Photo: Suzanna Shubeck.

Dear Alka Seltzer Itchknee,

You, like many of those appalled, brave and foolish enough to mention the ugliness of the emperor’s least attractive ensemble to his face, learned the social lesson the hard way regarding the price you will pay for piping up in the middle of a twenty-course meal to point out the host’s fly is undone. Instead of the hero’s reception you might have hoped for, you find your evening cut short well before your just desserts are served. Nobody likes to be embarrassed in public, so most folks realize that the bill you’ll promptly receive for tattling on the shenanigans that cost unimportant people their lives generally has included with it a single final invitation, to go, that pretty-much clears-up your hectic schedule from the time-consuming tasks freedom requires.  Nobody like a bossy host either, but the reality is they can usually outdo you when it comes to the food and decor, and everyone loves a party, if only because it’s a chance to be seen wearing a new dress.

The tension between tattling and being popular is something we all learn about as children, sometimes in conjunction with our ethical sense of what’s right or wrong but in other cases it is more strongly linked to our grasp of expediency, two ideas that are quite far apart even though ethical and expedient are pretty close to each other in the English Dictionary. In many of these cases, time turns out to be the element that unifies these irreconcilable differences, as by the end of the passage of a lifetime the difference between Power, Truth and Those Who Speak Truth To Power converge in a way that they just can’t seem to manage in their busy youth. Some friendships aren’t meant to be, despite many shared interests, and their failure to connect with each other is less a reflection of either side’s personal shortcomings than it is of all the other stuff going on in each party’s lives at the time of the international crisis and loss of life getting in the way of the budding potential friendship.

Unfortunately, avoiding politics is often harder than avoiding bullets, even friendly fired ones in war zones, not to mention the casual passersby that occasionally steal them with their bodies in a completely unpremeditated manner. This adds to the overall cost of war directly. Anyone hosting a war zone will not appreciate having their bullets counted by an unhappy guest any more than they care for having their drinks counted by the one person there who has given up drinking or killing due to health concerns for themselves or others.

PFC Manning may be eligible for parole in ten years, so he may not have to serve the full thirty-five.  At 35 years old, his prison sentence would be old enough to run for President, and with the recent breakthrough in corporate personhood rights, society may well have become comfortable with the idea of expanded personhood rights by then to include other non-human concepts such as prison sentences, rent-controlled apartments or marriages being qualified to run for office, independently from the lives of the mere meatbags in their employ. Even if Mr. Manning feels his free time would be better spent at that point, I do not doubt that his experiences in this arena will make him a valuable resource to the public dialog, if one still exists.

I look forward to what the future holds for Mr. Manning, who’s present I think both supporters and detractors would be hard-pressed to describe as anything besides “sucking.” He’s got an awful lot of unappetizing things on his plate, a pet peeve of mine especially when served on a paper plate in a crowded setting, and I’m afraid there won’t be any spoiled lapdogs or big ficus plants around to hide it in, he’s going to have to eat all that himself. But, as the politically imprisoned know, integrity can bear a fair amount of interest over the duration of the bond, but in the interim, the extended period of frugality can be a little grim to anyone bearing it, or bearing witness to it.

It is my humble opinion that serving a 35 year prison term for sharing classified military iPod™ playlists, among other things, ought to be worth a medal of some kind, as many of the secret files in question will be eligible for re-entry into the public sphere by then as well, and some will no doubt become strong advocates of leniency in his case, if Mr. Manning is still serving his time at that point.  It is not in The Government’s nature to invite criticisms of itself and its behaviors, but with time even longstanding hatchets can be buried in the interests of moving forward. Pretending until your dying day that an awful haircut makes you look good doesn’t fix your image any more than throwing the boy in the street that pointed at it into a jail cell for life gets rid of those frizzy tangles. Trust me — that comb out is a huge hassle, but if you don’t buckle down and get to work on it, you are looking at one hell of a dreadful future, in which one’s head is full of dreads.

I also think ten years should be plenty of time to make your own medal in the prison metal-working shop, if you can’t find anyone to give you a Nobel Prize™ for sacrificing your freedom in order to do what you thought was right, even if you should have known better than to go about it the way you did.  War, which we shamefully wage with our young, is confusing and troubling enough without waging it on the backs of confused, troubled young men like the unfortunate Private Manning.


Mrs. Vera, lost.Mrs. Vera Newman is a San Francisco absurdist character, humorist, artist, writer, community organizer, clothes horse and co-founder, with Mister Tina, of The Verasphere. She has been answering the unasked questions she receives from the lonely, empty rooms of America’s heart-shaped circulatory pump room ever since it began beating. Nestled in the politically bent bowels of the Nation since she was a young girl babysitting the very same newborn Nation, her ability to self-reflect about anyone else’s embarrassing shortcomings, inept fumblings or lousy recipes has enabled her invisible rise as a modern-day Cassandra, whatever that means. Feel free to dispose of all your worries by leaving them on her doorstep!


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