Matthew Andrews via Crowdrise
July 21, 2013
BENEFITING: ALLIANCE FOR GLOBAL JUSTICE
EVENT DATE: Jul 07, 2013
It was an unseasonably warm day for Vermont in March. I went out on a long run that took me off the road and onto some rugged trails. I was so excited about the nice weather and that I forgot to consider that the trails I would be running on, sheltered by forest shade, would still be covered in several inches of snow from earlier in the week. My run soon turned into a hike through unbroken snow. I knew I could do it. I just had to work with my body and not worry about how long it might take to finish. This kind of physical exertion puts me in a meditative state of mind. Life seems a bit simpler when I am completely focused on trudging through the snow. As I exited the trail and returned to the cleared road my pace picked up once again. I am flushed with an immediate sense of accomplishment that lifted my spirits. Running is an activity where hard work yields results. I may never be fast, but I love the dependability of progress.
My mind wonders and inevitably returns to a rerun of various personal goals. I want to join friends in a 10K race. I want a new PR at a half marathon this summer. I may want to run my first full marathon. I want to run the Spartan Beast again this fall: a grueling, muddy, 13 mile obstacle race held at the Killington ski resort. Other goals also enter my head. I need a better job. I want to contribute to a more peaceful world.
I am a long time antiwar activist who organized against the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq as a college student and for years afterwards. I regret not being able to prevent the hundreds of thousands of deaths that resulted. Strong mass movements are the only viable counterweight to corporate and state interests that have led us into a policy of endless war. But I can not motivate people to create a mass movement. It's an enormous project to inspire, educate, and organize people; much more complex than just marching in the streets. As much as I want to shoulder the world's burdens, I must recognize my limitations.
Sometimes individuals do have a major impact to better the course of history. First it requires being at the right place at the right time. Second, it requires the moral courage to do the right thing regardless of personal consequences. Nobody fits this definition today better than Bradley Manning. As a low level intelligence officer he saw the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq play out at a level of detail that is denied to the US public. He was horrified and decided to do something about it.
We often hear that we live in an age of information. More than ever before, there is the potential for access to information. But the old battle line between haves and have-nots has changed very little in this new age. Consequently, more than ever, corporations and the US government are compiling as much information as possible about us, while keeping their own activities secret, and spending billions of dollars on propaganda to dazzle, confuse, and distract us. Bradley Manning struck a blow for the freedom of information and accountability to the public that shook the world. The documents he released to Wikileaks exposed the ignoble motivations and dishonorable conduct of the US government, and sparked outrage that was key to the popular uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa.
As an amateur athlete I've noticed that races and other popular events almost always include military charities and recruiters. Promotional videos on YouTube for the Spartan races promote teams of soldier-athletes. In CrossFit, workouts are named in honor of soldiers who have died in Iraq or Afghanistan. They are called Hero Workouts. Calling someone a hero implies that they fought for freedom, justice, or some noble cause. Despite the unpopularity of these wars, and the widespread understanding that they do not serve our interests, the military is allowed to promote itself as virtuous by hiding behind the suffering of US soldiers. By conflating the institutions of war with the men and women on the ground, opposition to war is stifled, rather than enraged, by our sympathies for our own soldiers.
Consequently, Bradley Manning has suffered torturous prison conditions and faces outrageous charges in a military court for aiding the enemy. If we are going to celebrate a war hero, Bradley Manning should be it. In defiance of powerful forces, with virtually no support, he took perilous actions to serve the constitution he swore to uphold, the people of the United States, and the cause of justice around the world.
As an athlete, I want to participate in competitions, but I feel uncomfortable being silent while war is glorified. It was near the end of my long run, as I mulled over these difficult contradictions that I decided I would wear a Bradley Manning t-shirt whenever I compete and raise donations for the Bradley Manning Support Network.
In addition to raising money to support Bradley Manning, I believe this will be a good opportunity to reach people like myself who are uncomfortable with the close relationship between athletics and militarism. Even more importantly, it is an opportunity to reach young people in uniform who also compete and may be wrestling with the decision to be a whistleblower like Bradley Manning. By being at an athletic event, we may reach enlisted men and women who might not otherwise be exposed to thinking about war in a critical way. They need to see athletes like themselves publicly supporting Bradley Manning. I would love to eventually build a network of athletes who oppose militarism, support Bradley Manning, and other prisoners of conscience.
I have signed up for the Mad Marathon in Vermont for July 7th. It will be my first marathon, and my first time running for a cause. I am setting for myself what I hope is an obtainable goal of $1,000. Please give generously! Your contributions will motivate me to succeed. If the integrity of our society is to survive, we must all do what we can to free Bradley Manning. As we enjoy the freedom to run outside on a beautiful spring day, Bradley Manning sits in a cell waiting for the freedom to join us.