Manning’s Dad: Seeming Stoicism, Denial and, Tragically, Lotsa Conditional Love
Manning’s father appeared briefly on Frontline clips on the NewsHour tonight. My heart went out to him, but even more to Manning after only a few minutes of taking in “Daddy.”
How sad that Bradley’s daddy can’t see and celebrate the heroic champion his son actually and, okay, allegedly is. I am sure there is some degree of awe within his father over the great lengths Bradley has gone and is still willing to go to stand up to a ferociously toxic and violent patriarchal authority -- the entire evil military industrial security complex.
Dad assuredly gave Manning a lot of experience and practice in fighting blind and formidable authority I’d venture. Funny, how psychologically wounded children sometimes end up having the greatest courage and spirit as adults, as well as honor. Maybe, too, that fateful and sustained experience with a parent such as the one I seemed to be witnessing tonight gives them the hunger or will to try, though there is a horror in the futility, to work out such a primal relationship of crazymaking and identity-sabotaging “conditional” as opposed to “unconditional” love with other authorities later in life.
The poor parent can’t accept him- or herself so projects the rejection onto the child, usually the child that most reminds him or her of himself or herself as a vulnerable youth. And the child, to fully break into authenticity -- in order to fully recover from toxic conditional love -- has to learn the excruciating lesson of letting go of what he or she actually never had. Scott Peck believes most of us mortals can’t fathom it. It is far too heartbreaking. Parents who were incapable of accepting our real selves.
Sure the father has pride in his son, as far as he can let himself recognize the dimensions of this nightmare scenario for Bradley. The father's courage in taking on the corporate media to help his son's case. So many within the media have vilified Bradley so relentlessly, neocon and neolib-lovers alike. Even going on a more respectable show like Frontline took tremendous courage for Mr. Manning. I respect him for that and see that Bradley doesn’t get his courage “from the ground.” His dad must have role-modeled that for him, too, and the father deserves credit. As for the father, he also is now vulnerable to having arm-chair, self-helpy types like amateur blogger me analyze him after only two or three minutes of tv time.
The father maintained tonight his son is innocent. That his son assuredly didn’t commit the crime. He also maintained his son seems fine through all this. Does Bradley act fine in front of his father? I bet he does as best as he can, though given the reports from both his friend and his lawyer, even how hard he probably is trying at this point, if the father sees “fineness” he is profoundly limited, or if he is lying about his son’s “fineness” he is honoring his own destructive need for “impression management”.
Bradley is probably giving the father as best he can of what he feels the father can handle and needs. A performance trying to win him the tragic crumbs of more conditional acceptance. One strives to get what one can from a parent, not realizing the long-term challenge to self-identity and inner peace it creates.
This remarkably dramatic scenario does offer his father an opportunity to open up to and experience real, unconditional love, if only he could and would approach it. I personally doubt he is capable of it. It is a challenge for any and all of us. The father needs to let go of his denial of the present reality as a first step.
Wonder if they will explore young Manning being gay with the father on the upcoming Frontline. Try to break his father’s stoicism with that challenge. More reality tv on the back of an American torture victim, tortured by American authorities? A new depth for reality corporate tv. I think of the real life Serpico when considering Manning’s massive challenge. I think of heroic movie characters like "Cool Hand Luke" or the Tim Robbins’ character in Shawshank. Jack Nicholson’s in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
What did Newman ultimately say in his movie, mocking the earlier words of the sadistic prison warden? “What we have here is a failure to communicate!” Memorable understatement from a classic movie. Communicate? How girly. The military apparently doesn’t seriously believe in communication. Trickle down authoritarian sadism seems to be the M.O.
The father must have tremendous guilt, I am sure. The father admitted it was he who “twisted his son’s arm” to enter the military and get him some STRUCTURE. Of course. Bradley obviously needed and deserved something else, along with, I’d venture, thousands of other young people, but father assumed he knew best. The are massive numbers of other parents out there -- the parents’ over-trust in and authoritarian-following of the patriarchal military and government, especially at the hands of their present, profoundly for the most part amoral leadership.
These parents made serious and fateful assumptions.
How many parents like Manning’s dad have sent their children into military hell? How many can not admit to what they helped enable to happen to their young adult children? Granted some of those children leaped in on their own, embracing media romanticized war mythology.
As for the STRUCTURE his father willed for him. Well, yes, it has given young Manning that. Ritualized humiliation I have heard it referred to as. The shackles. The sensory deprivation. The enforced nudity a/k/a sustained sexual abuse. The solitary confinement, sure road to psychosis. The anti-depressant, or whatever they are, potential addiction.
Fierce psychological and physical torture PUNISHMENT before he is even tried. This is the new American way? American justice a sham. Torturing the essence and spirit of American law. Twisting it with Orwellian illegitimate technicalities. “Prevention of injury” bullshit. And a whole lot more.
All this has given us the “gift” to face reality via Manning’s struggle. Its undisputable illumination of what lengths our government and military will go and how downright cowardly and evil they can be when resisted. Manning’s case is also a shocking tip of the proverbial iceberg, given the high numbers of homicides, suicides and sexual abuse going on and minimized by our military and political authorities. Cover-up the clear priority of the establishment, rather than solving the gravest of problems.
This military and government need to crush the mind, soul and body of a 23-year old American patriot. It is heartbreaking and mind-numbing.
America, one big old super dysfunctional family and the patriarchal military and political parents have reached Caligula/Medea proportions as caretakers of the nation’s youth. Hell, of all of us.
Well, one lone positive thus far. At least the Mannings don’t have to contend with Dr. Phil.
(I know, I know. I should talk.)