Chelsea ManningCommunityThe Dissenter

Chelsea Manning on What She’s Thankful for This Thanksgiving

Chelsea Manning, who was given a thirty-five year sentence in August for offenses committed when she released United States government documents to WikiLeaks, will be celebrating Thanksgiving in prison at Fort Leavenworth.

It is the fourth Thanksgiving since she was first arrested in May 2010, and she is one of the “public figures” TIME magazine asked to share what she was thankful for this Thanksgiving.

For anyone who read statements she made during her court martial, the answer is the kind of unabashed honest answer one has come to expect from Manning. It also is the answer one would give if one of their favorite books is The People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn.

I’m usually hesitant to celebrate Thanksgiving Day. After all, the Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony systematically terrorized and slaughtered the very same Pequot tribe that assisted the first English refugees to arrive at Plymouth Rock. So, perhaps ironically, I’m thankful that I know that, and I’m also thankful that there are people who seek out, and usually find, such truths. I’m thankful for people who, even surrounded by millions of Americans eating turkey during regularly scheduled commercial breaks in the Green Bay and Detroit football game; who, despite having been taught, often as early as five and six years old, that the “helpful natives” selflessly assisted the “poor helpless Pilgrims” and lived happily ever after, dare to ask probing, even dangerous, questions.

She celebrates the common people—carpenters, welders, retail clerks, bank managers, artists, lawyers and anyone else who asks “tough questions” and seeks out “the truth, even when the answers they find might not easy to live with.”

All of which might be a good enough answer from a classic whistleblower doing time in military prison this holiday, however, she does not stop there:

I’m also grateful for having social and human justice pioneers who lead through action, and by example, as opposed to directing or commanding other people to take action. Often, the achievements of such people transcend political, cultural, and generational boundaries. Unfortunately, such remarkable people often risk their reputations, their livelihood, and, all too often, even their lives.

Again, this is a person who requested a copy of Zinn’s People’s History while imprisoned in conditions that amounted to solitary confinement at Marine Corps Base Quantico.

Despite everything she’s been through, it is messages like these that make it clear she will not be losing her dignity or incredible spirit as she serves her sentence, even though her government sought to break her down and make an example out of her.

Read her full answer on what she’s thankful for this Thanksgiving here.

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Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."