Boy On Fire

Today is quite some day, don’t you think?

As I wake up to the morning’s papers, I learn that Ian Brady has died at 79. When I tried to get to sleep last night, I struggled because I was so happy to learn that Chelsea Manning is about to walk free.

From a narcissistic killer who thrived on extinguishing the freedom of vulnerable children in the most heinous ways possible to a freedom fighter who risked her life to show us the truth about our imbalanced world, today marks the difference between selfish and selfless.

In my post, I will refer to Chelsea Manning by her full name out of respect for her as a person and her incredible choices and, without malice, to Ian Brady as just “Brady” out of respect for his victims and their families.

Both children started with difficult lives. In fact, Brady’s was more stable and caring. As the boy she was born as, Chelsea Manning suffered emotionally at the hands of a bottle-clutching alcoholic mother and a controlling, distant father, yet still retained reasonable communication with his parents, helping them whenever he could. His effeminate style and smaller stature (owing to the fact that his mother drank heavily throughout the pregnancy) made him a target for intensive bullying at school. Other people made his life quite miserable at times. In complete contrast, as a youngster, self-protective Brady remained solitary out of choice, collected Nazi materials for fun, boasted that he’d buried a cat alive and calmly tied up and set fire to another boy during playtime. He rejected the kind adoptive parents who took him in and tried to help him.

Anyone can have a tough start – even I can feel basic sympathy for the innocent, abused children some killers once were – but stressful early years and genetics aside, Brady was not born an active, cold-eyed killer. I truly believe that. Over time and with enough bitter, inward reflection, he turned powerlessness and problems into narcissistic rage, secretly channelling his inner turmoil and frustration into a lifelong hatred of others and a murderous resentment of the comfortable, loving home-lives he perceived them as being lucky enough to get.

Chelsea Manning, struggling with wanting to be a girl, but being born a boy, followed her father’s footsteps into the army to try to “rid [herself] of it”, then realised the idea wasn’t working and rejected the belief that it should. Trapped in a man’s world, suffering bullying again for being different, Chelsea didn’t retreat into fear or let her pain fully consume her. She suffered, but she also stuck a fairy wand on her desk at work – a silent show of pride in her true identity and a simple sign that she was not going to take the injustice anymore.

But then Chelsea Manning did something far, far more incredible.

Instead of doing what Brady did and setting fire to himself (what I believe he really wanted to do when he lit up the clothes of his first human plaything, revealing his true motivation: a deep self-hatred), Chelsea Manning retained her integrity and set fire to one of the biggest myths of human existence: that war is to uncover the truth, for the good of the people. She showed us, with hard facts, undeniable evidence and sheer bravery, that we are being lied to on a daily basis by the people we elect and trust and that persecution, racism, war crimes and human rights abuses are happening on an unprecedented scale all over the world by leaders who claim to “protect” us. That day, honesty took the place of truth-warping and warmongering. In my humble opinion, war is death and anyone who promotes it and recruits decent, hardworking young people to do it are psychopaths as narcissistic and twisted as any killer working with his or her own hands.

Chelsea Manning is still only 29 years of age. She is a superb example of a relatively ordinary person doing a jaw-droppingly extraordinary action – a subject I’m passionate about both in my online writing and my fiction. So, join with me in celebrating Chelsea’s life so far and thanking her for the sacrifices she has made to improve the lives of millions of people she will never even meet.

In words her supporters will understand, “Have a good day.”

End of post