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Personhood of the year

December 17, 2011

                                                                    ”At the gate, he drenched himself in paint thinner and lit a match.’
(Photo: Mannoubia Bouazizi in Tunisia, by Peter Hapak.)

Eight months ago I wrote a piece on the particular personhood of Mohamed Bouazizi and Bradley Manning. I took keen interest in the near-miraculous folds of their lives but a crucial bit of history escaped me. 17 December simultaneously marks the day Bouazizi lit himself afire outside the Sidi Bouzid capital building. It also marks Manning’s birthday.

To say that I continue to be fascinated by the impact of these men would be an understatement because I find it impossible and even undesirable to view their actions through a cold observatory distance.

Time magazine has named the protester as its ‘person of the year,’ beginning its centerfold piece with a story about Bouazizi. Inarguably they are the names of the year for their remarkable negation of the dehumanizing, and seemingly inescapable, machines that formed their habitat. I doubt, however, that their actions (in the case of Manning, insert the obligatory ‘alleged’) could be described as mere protest. Sometimes the very bricks of an institution—a defiled madhouse in both Bouazizi’s and Manning’s case—have to be burned down before its fire catches on.

And even then, the habitual indignity that threatened to strip each of them of the very foundation for personhood hasn’t ceased. Nor have the government and army of the United States been investigated, let alone prosecuted (I’m sure even the suggestion invokes snorts of laughter) for war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, what Manning witnessed and irrefutably refused to take part in and for what he is now being prosecuted in a largely closed and ineffectual trial 17 months after imprisonment.

UPDATE:

If you haven’t read JR’s post about the de-queering of Manning, you might:

But I want to say: Manning exists; Manning’s motives and actions with respect to WikiLeaks were heroic, even specifically queerly heroic; and, in some senses, maybe Manning is a queer child, who should be celebrated as such.

And here’s Larry Goldsmith on on how the professional gay consensus has abandoned the ‘poor (gay) man’s fight’ to promote the ‘rich man’s war’:

This is, of course, the classic argument about gays and national security–they’ll get beat up or blackmailed and reveal our secrets.  And NGLTF, Lambda, and HRC, with their impeccably professional media and lobbying campaign, based on the best branding and polls and focus groups that money could buy, have effectively demolished that insidious stereotype. They have demolished it by abandoning Bradley Manning.

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