In our United States of Amnesia there is a thin, carefully manufactured line between truth and spin, between real and computer generated and, apparently, between heroes and traitors.
Blowing the whistle used to be a good thing. On the school yard or in the middle of a busy intersection, the yard duty and traffic cop used the whistle to kept us safe. The ear piercing sound meant, "Stop, before someone gets hurt!"
The fact is, today's heroes are the whistleblowers. We've learned about corruption in our banking and investment firms because of them. We learned about BP's reckless disregard for the environment because of them. We've learned about Pentagon waste, Abu Ghraib, domestic spying, and on and on and on.
Each time, someone blew the whistle to stop us from hurting the innocent, the environment and, in some cases, the Constitution.
Sadly, we rely on these whistleblowers to do the job reporters used to do when they took the time to blow the whistles they found hanging on the Fourth Branch. Now, we rely on brave citizens to do that job and they do so at great risk to their families, their careers and their health.
Remember Karen Silkwood? Remember when those tobacco executives raised their right hands and swore on the Bible that their chemically enhanced tobacco was not addictive? A whistleblower sounded the alarm.
In covert America, a society now built upon distrust of everyone and everything, our government consistently lets us down by leaving us unprotected...kowtowing to corporations instead of blowing the whistle on them. The traffic cops of industry who used to man federal regulatory agencies have been replaced by lobbyists from the very industries the government was supposed to monitor.
Regular citizens are out of work, tired, broke and confused...perfectly set up for fomenting division and over-stimulating us to the point of fatigue and indifference. Frankly, Americans don't have anyone to trust, and they know it. How did we get here?
Consider this: The day after 9/11, a deeply committed group of men took advantage of a devastated nation by opening up a map of the world and deciding where and how to "expand their empire." Neocons such as Paul Wolfowitz, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld tied the Taliban and the "war on Terror" to a long desired invasion of Iraq! Richard Clarke tried to blow the whistle, but it was too little, too late.
The media whistled through the graveyard instead of sounding the alarm, refusing to take their whistle into the busy intersection where imperialism and the constitution were speeding toward a collision course.
And those few whistle-blowing reporters who saw through the manipulation after 9/11? They usually got fired. When President Bush smugly mentioned freedom of the press to former Russian President Vladimir Putin, the old KGB veteran laughed and pointed out that Bush got Dan Rather fired. Putin knew exactly how a controlled media works. He controlled one, too.
Now, we have Pvt. Bradley Manning and the head of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange doing what reporters should have been doing all along. Out of fear of being fatally scooped, and in the continued hope of keeping America dancing to their jingoism tune, the Pentagon and FOX News are now calling these whistleblowers traitors.
Oh, my heart. How messed up is this? Julian Assange and Pvt. Bradley Manning--heroes turned into villains by ratings-hungry cable clowns in patriotic makeup who juggle the truth, bow to the Pentagon and stuff themselves into a tiny-minded car that only turns to the right. It's as plain as the nose on Uncle Sam's face, here in our once honorable United States of Amnesia.
We are told Pvt. Manning is, essentially, in an undisclosed location, which makes one wonder if a water-board might be involved. If this young man is harmed and his rights trampled, then those of us who did not defend him are the ones with blood on our hands.
In America, we were once taught that those who told the truth, those who issued warnings, no matter how personally inconvenient, were heroes. What happened to that American value?
As we ask ourselves who benefits from this startling exposé of the ongoing debacle called Afghanistan, why not consider those who might be the heroes who have nothing to gain and everything to lose, but still do the right thing.