2011-12-11 Bradley Manning: Hearing the Word of the Prophets


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Prophets have existed since ancient times. Religions and cultural traditions from time immemorial have acknowledged their existence. Traditionally, prophets were seen as those who play a role of forecasting epochal change in society through their messages and insight.

In moments of crisis, people look for prophets. With expanding environmental degradation, political corruption and deepening economic turmoil, where can we find prophets in this modern age of crisis?

Many regard prophets as those who see the future and receive a vision. Yet, there is more to acting prophetically than this.

Prophets can be found in unexpected places. In a combat zone, where life and death converge, one can be closest to the threshold between past and future. The acts of war resisters, veterans and soldiers who from out of their moral convictions choose not to carry on killing or support war can be seen as prophetic.

There are soldiers who refused to be deployed as a result of a moral awakening. They stand at a threshold between a certain reality and the potential to transform it. It is like the voice of Dr. King was speaking to the core of their being when he said:

Cowardice asks the question, ‘Is it safe?’ Expediency asks the question, 'Is it politic?' But conscience asks the question, ‘Is it right?’ And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular but because conscience tells one it is right.

These people found the strength and courage within to act out of hope rather than fear, choosing to break the chain of command coming from the past to live up to a higher vision what humans ought to be. They remind us how what we often call conscience is a call from the future, a gentle tapping on the shoulder.

At the 2008 Winter Soldier event, Jon Turner testified about his experiences of the routine killing of innocent people in Iraq and other war crimes. He spoke about his choice to follow a different path, “I am sorry for the things that I did. I am no longer the monster that I once was”.

More recently, former US solider Ethan McCord began speaking out about the incident in the “Collateral Murder” video released by WikiLeaks in 2010. He grabbed a little girl from amidst the carnage and ran for help. Later that day as everyone ignored what had happened, McCord could not. He recounted his experience.:

I went to my room to try to the clean the children’s blood from my uniform. Fighting back tears from what I’d seen, my emotions were taking over; the very thing that the army taught us not to do in war, I was doing. My humanity and love for the human race was overcoming everything they taught me.

Those dissidents took courageous steps to change the course of history. For them, the connection to the future is not to be experienced passively, like having visions given to them; instead they may have felt they should be active participants in manifesting it.

Prophets access a present moment where both the past and potential of the future co-exist. They choose one reality out of multiple potentialities. In this regard, the strength of prophets really lies in their courage to choose hope over fear, stepping into unknown territory to bring forth a vision of a kind of future that is imagined through their high ideals.

A similar prophetic act can live in the conviction and actions of whistle-blowers. If alleged whistle-blower Bradley Manning was the one that leaked the documents released by WikiLeaks, perhaps he too had glimpsed events that have not yet taken place.

In his alleged chat logwith Adrian Lamo before the US diplomatic cables were released, Manning shared his anticipation:

(12:52:33 PM) bradass87: Hilary Clinton, and several thousand diplomats around the world are going to have a heart attack when they wake up one morning, and finds an entire repository of classified foreign policy is available, in searchable format to the public…=L

(1:11:54 PM) bradass87: and… its important that it gets out … i feel, for some bizarre reason

(1:12:02 PM) bradass87: it might actually change something

He might have seen the future where deep transformation is in the making and how the world might change for the better. If allegations are true and the chat logs are genuine, Manning took huge personal risks to step into that future as participant in making this vision happen. He didn’t just passively wait for someone to change the world.

(02:21:18 AM) bradass87: and god knows what happens now ….

(02:22:27 AM) bradass87: hopefully worldwide discussion, debates, and reforms

(02:23:06 AM) bradass87: if not… than we’re doomed

(02:23:18 AM) bradass87: as a species

Between fear and hope he weighed in on hope, on the human potential to do good over against the greed, despair and cynicism of humanity. He expressed his simple faith in ordinary people. It seems he genuinely believed that if this information would become available, an effective portion of global society would take action and demand justice, and on some level he was right.

Prophets spark hope for deep change. Whether Manning is really the source of those documents or not, he has already changed the course of human history. The Occupy Movement is spreading like wildfire and is a sign that the world is catching up to his courage to take hold of the future. For many he has become a symbol of the lowly David that stood up to the corporate-military complex Goliath.

Michael Moore recently acknowledged that the action of alleged whistle-blower Bradley Manning triggered the Occupy Movement:

It’s not a magazine from Vancouver. It’s not—if you want to—if you really want to pin it down to somebody, I would thank Bradley Manning … But if one courageous soldier hadn’t—allegedly—done what he had done, if he hadn’t done this, it—who knows? But it was already boiling just beneath the surface, and it just needed somebody to get it going.

He is a prophet, a hero incarcerated without due process, stripped naked and treated inhumanely. In every age and society, prophets were perceived as a threat to illegitimate power and were attacked or ridiculed.

In a recent article; Bradley Manning Finally Gets a Hearing, Kelley B. Vlahos gave a thorough update on the life of this courageous young man. She concludes with the thought that what happened to him could happen to any one of us:

Which is why when they say ‘we are all Bradley Manning,’ they mean it. In many ways this is not just about one man, but a machine that has gotten way ahead of our ability to understand or accept it.

On one hand, this is true and people need to face this harsh reality. Yet, “We are all Bradley Manning” also indicates something else. It indicates the power to access a future that intrinsically resides in each of us and that we can tap into our own prophetic voice within, as he did.

Manning had a certain faith in ordinary people and chose to act prophetically for humanity. Do we hear his voice and see what he saw as human potential? Can we find faith in the actions of ordinary people like Manning did?

In seeking a progressive path to the prophetic voice, journalism professor Robert Jensen said, “It is time for each of us to take responsibility for speaking in the prophetic voice.” [1] He reminds us how “we don’t need a prophet- we need prophets, ordinary people who are willing to tap into the prophetic voice that is within us all.”[2]

Perhaps, we are now like many other prophets that came in times of crisis, standing at a similar critical time of decision in history. As Bradley Manning’s court day is imminent this Dec 16, are we caught by the distraction of Christmas holidays? Who among us will hear the words of prophets and respond to this call from the future?


1. Jensen, R. (2009). All my bones shake: Seeking a progressive path to the prophetic voice. Brooklyn: Soft Skull Press. p. 143.

2. Jensen, p. 161.

Bradley Manning

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