Thursday 22 December 2011

Christmas Special: The Ballad of Private Manning

This Christmas, while many of us tuck into turkey and get progressively comatose on good red wine and the Dr Who Christmas Special, Private First Class Bradley (or more properly Breonna) Manning will be languishing in a prison cell at the behest of the US military and government, for the crime of exposing their dirty secrets. Therefore, I choose to mark Christmas with the following poem.

The Ballad of Private Manning

Vaclav Havel died today:
you spoke of freedom far away,
but in a courtroom in your land,
the witnesses denied the stand
told the story, gave the lie
to that song you sing, the flag you fly.
You are not brave, and neither are you free,
and though you claim it, you do not love liberty.
While Private Manning sits in jail
your Founding Fathers' dream has failed.

Your soldiers left Iraq this week
in APCs no longer sleek,
but pockmarked, patched-up, battle-scarred,
new shielding on their fuselage
to spread the blast of IEDs:
and elsewhere, naked, on bent knee,
under 'Prevention of Injury',
your High-Value Detainee,
Private Manning, cannot sleep.
At such things Lincoln once would weep,

but we're sophisticated now,
or post-postmodern, anyhow.
We know the Gulf War happened, since
we bulldozed bodies into pits.
We bag-and-tagged, we shock-and-awed,
we turkey-shot and pressed 'record',
shot our own Movies of the Week:
but God forbid the stuff should leak.
Now Private Manning has to pay
for snitching on the USA:

One nation, indivisible,
of free-market individuals
and corporations - which are people
(who are not created equal),
where goods and wealth will trickle down
to your senescent steel town,
and if they don't? If you're still poor,
speak to your friendly neighbourhood recruiter,
like Private Manning! Join the team!
Just don't let on that you're a queen,

or that, inside, you're just a girl -
don't wanna make the jarheads hurl!
And who could blame those good ol' boys
for dissaproving of said lifestyle choice?
When you're in country, killing ragheads,
you don't wanna think you sleep with faggots!
But it's a poor and unAmerican excuse
to blame sustained, malign abuse.
No: Private Manning chose to tell.
We were forced to give her Hell.

Now Christmas comes to one and all
on this side of the prison wall,
while some sweat in judicial fire,
cries for justice echoing higher,
right up to the White House Door,
where Barack says you broke the law
before your case is brought to trial.
He'll pardon turkeys with a smile,
but Private Manning suffers still,
sees no light from the City on the Hill.

America won't last forever:
nothing does this side of Heaven,
but backed-up drives and mirrored sites
will help the future scribes to write
of how a nation's shining dream
was finally broken at the seams
by Haliburton, Rove and Bush,
who made blood gush so oil would rush.
So Private Manning went to war
to buy the Haves a little more,

and found a happy hunting ground
for those who wanted flesh to pound,
faith to torture, bones to snap
and pretty girls and boys to rape.
Saw and told. Did what she must.
In Lamo Manning placed her trust:
Lamo, who claimed to be a man,
then sold his ass to Uncle Sam.
Now Private Manning's in a cell,
since Adrian Lamo chose to squeal,

and they say Manning's 'almost gone',
seventeen months denied the sun,
while Rove goes off on lecture tours
and Lamo's Langley's favoured whore,
and Barack speaks of hope and dreams
while hopeless, disenfranchised teens,
taught by pain not to give a damn,
enlist for battle with Iran,
while Private Manning sits and rots,
naked on an army cot.

Vaclav Havel died today,
but he was once, like Manning, caged,
because he wouldn't bend the knee
to those who steal our liberty.
Once he coped with secret police harrassers,
then skated through the leader's palace,
brought tyrants down, exposed a lie:
the same which bids us 'Occupy!'
Let all free voices now contend,
that Private Manning may see such an end.

                                                             *    *   *

I would like to get this poem on Youtube as a collaborative performance video, with people reading out a line each. If you'd like to add your voice, please comment or contact me via Facebook or Twitter.