“I’m no traitor,” Chelsea Manning told moderator Eugene Jarecki “I believe I did the best I could in my circumstances to make an ethical decision.” Manning made that statement during an interview last week at the Nantucket Project an annual event which brings people together to the Island to talk about their parts in shaping America.
Nothing I know of has been as divisive of an issue for the LGBT community, a historically patriotic yet independently progressive slice of Americana, then the question of whether Manning is a hero or traitor.
“The fact that you’re telling me I shouldn’t do this is the reason why I should.”
Chelsea Manning isn’t backing down or keeping quiet: pic.twitter.com/O3iUkQU2FM
— Splinter (@splinter_news) September 18, 2017
— Nadia Bolz-Weber (@Sarcasticluther) September 18, 2017
Tom Scott, who co-founded The Nantucket Project with Kate Brosnan, told the AP that invited Manning for “clarity of understanding.”
“My brother and father are Marines. They would respectfully challenge some of her decisions,” he said. “Barack Obama commuted her sentence. My instinct is that he’s a good and trustful man. How do those two things mix? Seeing her in person offers, perhaps, the best way to decipher that.”
Several audience members said they were intrigued to hear from Manning. Sara O’Reilly, a Nantucket resident who has attended several past conferences, said the speakers are typically a “little edgy.” She said she doesn’t judge Manning and other people have done “far worse” things. Bonnie Roseman, of West Palm Beach, Florida, said after the talk that Manning is courageous.
Scott said some people were upset that Manning was invited, but he didn’t consider retracting the invitation. Harvard University reversed its decision to name Manning a visiting fellow Friday, a day after CIA Director Mike Pompeo scrapped a planned appearance over the title for Manning. Pompeo called Manning an “American traitor.”
Manning said Harvard’s decision signaled to her that it’s a “police state” and it’s not possible to engage in actual political discourse in academic institutions.
“I’m not ashamed of being disinvited,” she said. “I view that just as much of an honored distinction as the fellowship itself.”
— Chelsea E. Manning (@xychelsea) September 15, 2017
Eugene Jarecki, an award-winning documentary director, moderated the discussion. He asked Manning if it “reflects something about the state of our time” that she’s still the subject of pressure by the CIA on Harvard and labeled a traitor.
Manning said she took a risk to contribute to political and public discourse and “change the tone of the conversation,” but it hasn’t changed, and if anything, “things have gotten worse.”
“I’m walking out of prison and I see, literally, a dystopian novel unfolding before my eyes,” she said. “That’s how I feel when I walk in the American street.”