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Every so often you run across a writer on the web where you say, “This guy is good,” or, “I’d like to read more of her stuff.” Last night I read a couple of articles by Ray McGovern, and had that reaction. A few weeks ago, I posted a link to The Humiliation of Bradley Manning, a piece he did for Consortiumnews.com. As a follow-up, I read Pundit Tears for Petraeus’s Fall, also in Consortium News.

This New Year’s Eve, I wanted to call attention to an incident that occurred on February 15, 2011, at a speech Hillary Clinton delivered at George Washington University in Washington, DC. As she criticized governments that arrest protesters and suppress free speech, McGovern stood and turned his back. A uniformed policeman and a plainclothesman pounced on his protest, handcuffed him so tightly his wrist bled, handled him so roughly as to leave several contusions on his arms, and put him in jail:


As they hauled him out of the room, McGovern said, “So this is America?” Secretary Clinton smoothly continued her speech.

McGovern was a seventy-one year old man at the time, seventy-two now. He served as an officer in the United States Army, and as a CIA analyst for twenty-seven years. You could say the university’s security people picked the wrong guy, as McGovern is better known than others they arrest. Or perhaps they regarded him as a familiar troublemaker, where they could teach him a lesson and deter other troublemakers.

Here are some related thoughts about this attack. First, check out the comments at Free Republic, where a report of the McGovern arrest landed. Free Republic is a conservative site. Scroll down a bit and you see this comment: “Ray McGovern is a noted leftist and activist. …McGovern is a scumbag.” Still further down:

Ray McGovern is pure filth, here’s something to give you an idea…

Brief remarks given at the rally for Bradley Manning earlier this afternoon [August 8, 2010] in Quantico, where he is imprisoned. The rally was sponsored by Code Pink, Veterans for Peace, and The Courage to Resist.


That’s it: for evidence that Ray McGovern is pure filth, the commenter links to a speech McGovern delivered at a rally to support Bradley Manning. From the commenter’s perspective, a list of the rally’s sponsors demonstrates the truth of his judgment. People who speak for Code Pink, Veterans for Peace, and The Courage to Resist must be “pure filth.”

Stop and think for a minute, folks. We all face a power that has demonstrated its ability – and willingness – to remove our freedoms, to do whatever is necessary to keep us in line and protect itself. We can only regain our freedom if we act with some degree of unity. Judgments about fellow citizens based only on their political affiliations won’t get us where we want to go. We need strength and encouragement to address our sense of fear, helplessness, and isolation.

Yes, lining up with fellow conservatives to label a leftist pure filth can lend one a sense of tribal unity. In the end, though, conservatives and liberals want the same thing. They may use different language to identify different threats to liberty. Nevertheless, we share an in-built desire to live our lives peacefully, to be left alone in our pursuits. We can’t attack one another because we don’t like another person’s pedigree.

The introduction to Ray McGovern’s speech about Bradley Manning contains some hopeful thoughts:

We are living in a liminal time, that is to say we live on the threshold. So much that we have taken for granted is passing. In times like this we must be careful to keep our bearings, lest we come to love the chaos that passes for reality. This is why we need to honor our brother Bradley Manning. He was not afraid to face the unknown; not afraid to resist the seduction of conformity; not afraid to follow his conscience, and not afraid to give us the wherewithal to distinguish truth from lies so that we, too, can follow our conscience.

“In times like this we must be careful to keep our bearings…”

These are words of hope for the New Year.