How do you love America dear Readers? Or, maybe more appropriately as I am asking rhetorically, how does one love America. Is it military service? If it is military service, is it serving on the frontlines without question? Is it protecting your brothers-in-arms at all costs, or is it using the tools you have been given to ensure that your only have to protect those brothers when it really matters?
Is it by serving as a member of a free press? If it is being a member of the press, is it knowing when to report on an issue and when to hold something back? Is it provoking others to break laws in the interest of the truth? Is it by public service? If so, do you love America most by obedience to rules and secrecy in matters of national security? Or is it speaking out when something isn't right?
Is it just by being an informed member of the public, and expressing opinions on matters, or rather is it supporting public servants in all they do? Is it serving in the legal system? If so, is it understanding the feelings of the public and acting accordingly? Or is it instead upholding the rule of law in all cases that makes America the best nation it can be?
All of these questions, and perhaps many more, have been asked and will continue to be asked by the participants in the Bradley Manning case of themselves. They will be asked by the public of the legal system and the Obama administration. And they should be asked by all Americans of each other.
What Bradley Manning did in releasing secret documents to Wikileaks was certainly illegal. And, we can take for granted that it put American lives at risk. However, even within those assumptions, more questions can be asked. Why are so many documents secret in America in the first place? Why are Americans in a position to be placed at risk in places like Iraq and Afghanistan in the first place? If a majority of Americans feel that those military actions are wrong either morally, strategically, or both, and there is information supporting those positions, should that information be public? Why shouldn't American know how their tax dollars and blood are being used?
Should any of this matter? Does the average American even remotely understand the complications of military operations and foreign policy enough to know when something is 'right' or 'wrong'? How can a private without the 'big picture' know enough himself to make such determinations?
I am not ashamed to admit that most of those questions remain answerless, or perhaps generate answers too nuanced to result in definitive yes's or no's, in this writer's mind. Like so many of the great debates of our times, I can see merit in both sides of almost every question above. However, that doesn't mean that they shouldn't be asked, considered and debated by all of us. Maybe that is how we, as a society, can best love America...