“Collateral Murder” and Bradley Manning

When WikiLeaks was all over the news three years ago, I was still in high school and living a delirious life where politics were for grown ups and WikiLeaks was a strange branch-off of Wikipedia. What did I know? What do I know? Until last night I was still blissfully unaware that there are heroes like Bradley Manning who put morality ahead of the law and decide that the American people can be trusted to know when their government commits war crimes.

Bradley Manning is a private in the US army who sent videos of the July 12, 2007 Baghdad Airstrike to WikiLeaks and is being charged with aiding the enemy. I was lucky enough to be directed to an article by Chris Hedges “We Are Bradley Manning”.

Last night I knew nothing about Bradley Manning and less about the infringement of our rights through WikiLeaks. Today, I feel that as a US citizen I am obliged to share this information. The video-“Collateral Murder- is below.

I cannot claim to be an expert on the US military and even as I write this, I feel that I’m not qualified to speak on the subject. But because I’m not an authority is exactly why I need to speak out. I’m coming from the same place as many of you who are only just now receiving this information. There’s time for us to become more fluent with the proceedings of Manning’s trial and the working of the military, but there is not time to debate with ourselves whether our own lack of knowledge will prevent us from sharing the truth.

Those soldiers in that airstrike wanted an excuse to kill those people. They wanted to indulge their own sense of violence under the guise of “national security” and they got what they wanted. They murdered innocent people-real people, with lives just like ours! This is what disturbed me the most: this isn’t fiction and these are real lives we’re dealing with. There was racism in this attack, racism that is learned in America and given wings in the army.

This is immoral and we know it. There is no justification.

I’ve never felt so strongly about something in my life. I’ve never felt so absolutely powerless. This is why I’m sharing this information. If we can get a discussion going and get other voices speaking out, we won’t be powerless in the face of a government seeking to repress what we can know.

Please, pass the article and the video along to your friends and family. Go to bradleymanning.org for more information and ways to get involved further.

Tense Discussions

I post a lot of blogs about things my brother has said that have been offensive and sexist. But I spent this past week at home for Spring Break and I love my brother. The line between conservative and liberal is barely there.

Although it seems impossible sometimes to hold a conversation with him, as we both believe so strongly in opposing positions, we make an effort to not step on each other’s beliefs.  Our relationship is not built on political views. It can be easy to assign the opposition of your viewpoint as someone who is stupid, or misinformed, or even evil. It gives you a sense of justice and moral superiority. It’s easy, but that’s what makes it terrible. If I have learned anything from discussions with my brother it’s that his opinions are well thought out and grounded in his perception of reality.

If I want to be heard for my beliefs I must first listen to his.

Whenever my brother and I debate, we know we won’t come to any conclusions. We know we won’t change the other’s mind.  But when we can, we have a dialogue going, and I appreciate this. We love each other no matter where our discussion leads.

Not everyone is having these tense “discussions” with family members. When we argue with friends or even strangers the stakes can be higher. I just want to say that no matter who you debate with, try to see that your opponent is more than just his or her opinions. We are not limited to liberal or conservative as our only markers of identity.

Identity is Fluid

Before I knew asexuality was a possible sexuality, I used to think I was straight because I didn’t like women. For the longest time I only knew the gay-straight binary.

Once, I thought I was attracted to a male friend of mine, and I felt so normal to be able to tell my mom at age 14 that I had a crush. It felt like I was finally being a teenage girl. I told my two best friends about my crush and we giggled because this reminded us of television shows where glossy teenagers spill their secrets to their friends.

I didn’t have the courage to ask my male friend out on a date in person, so I called him up on the phone and eventually said “I really like you and I was wondering if you like me in the same way?” He said no plain and simple. Our conversation was only slightly more awkward than before.

I wasn’t hurt or devastated by the rejection. I was embarrassed that I had asked.

A few years later I was at a friend’s sleepover party and once again we were sharing secrets. I was asked if I had ever had a crush on anyone before and I pretended to think it over. My friend called me out on bull shitting because she had been one of the friends I had told about my crush. Somehow, lying to her was even more mortifying than telling my male friend I liked him.

That sleepover party was four years ago, when I had just begun to identify myself as asexual. I didn’t know how to explain my crush and wasn’t comfortable trying to explain my sexuality.

I’m still friends with this girl-still great friends, really-but I haven’t come out to her. I’m concerned that she will draw on our past experiences and say “You can’t be asexual; you had a crush.” Maybe this is me being paranoid, but people remember how you used to identify yourself and are unwilling to accept changes. There is a strange belief that we are not meant to change.

I had a conversation with a person who used to identify as a lesbian and now identifies as transgender. He explained how difficult it is to tell his friends from high school and his home community because their experience with him is  that he has always been a she.

It’s difficult to come out to friends and family who believe identity is a rigid marker. I just want to let people know that it’s okay to change how you define yourself. It’s your body. It’s your gender. It’s your identity.

I still don’t know how to define the crush I had, but I now know that asexuality, like all sexualities, is a scale. It does not make me any less asexual for having a crush. Just as it wouldn’t make someone less straight or less gay for going through a period of questioning. We are meant to change and re-evaluate ourselves.

Thank you to all the women in my life

For International Women’s Day, I don’t want to spend time honoring famous women. There are other writers and researchers more skilled than I who know the details of these women’s lives and can-and will-relay them. It’s not that these famous women are not important or don’t deserve their day to be remembered, but for my own celebration I want to do something closer to home.

I may never be able to properly thank all the women who made a difference in my life if I don’t take the time to honor them alongside the pioneers in feminism. It would be a disservice to what they have taught me if I disregard them in order to spew out facts about Adrienne Rich or Judith Butler.

This is not just an ode to the women who are closest to me, but a sweeping thank you to really every woman I have met. If I have passed you on the street and exchanged polite hellos, if I went to school with you, whether I liked you or not, thank you.

If I have learned anything from being a feminist and looking at the women I have interacted with, it is that there is no right way to be a woman. There is no one image that can be the face of feminism, and there is no one woman to celebrate.

I honor the women who know that International Women’s Day will pass. When it is gone, sexism will still exist. These women I have met, live with, or love will wake up on March 9th and know they will still be denied equal pay, still live in rape culture, and still live in a world where they are taught to hate their bodies and teach their daughters to do the same.

I honor the women who are proud to be women anyway. The women who will wake up on March 9th and fight for gender equality because they know there is a long way ahead of us.