Funny, isn’t it? The way things can get turned around completely backwards so that everything means the opposite? We don’t mean Orwellian doublespeak. We’re talking about common words that don’t seem to have a static definition.
Like, say, the word “villain.” Pfc. Bradley Manning was called a villain, among many other pernicious names, in the three years that he was held without bail while awaiting trial. He was also called dangerous. And a traitor. And anything else that springs to mind when a patriotic American feels incensed.
Manning, of course, is none of these things. He’s a hero. He’s a courageous, conscientious citizen who faces between 20-years and life-in-prison for providing classified documents to WikiLeaks. The Authorities are doing what they must do: crush with impunity any individual with the temerity to challenge the rules (as defined by the Authorities). Despite the unjust sentence and the barbaric treatment he received in custody while awaiting trial, Manning retains his vision and his sense of truth. At his sentencing, Manning reiterated that he did what he did as an act of conscientious objection to our ongoing military follies in Afghanistan and Iraq, and to our bombastic military strategy in general. For acting bravely in the face of monolithic power, Manning proved himself to be many things. “Villain” isn’t one of them.
For that role we have Jan Perry. She’s one of the many candidates for Mayor of Los Angeles. When not telling the usual half-truths of the political trade, Perry likes to remind voters that if they elected her, she would be the city’s first female mayor, and a person of color to boot. She’s also a converted Jew with an interest in rabbinical studies. Perry appears in many way to be an attractive, community-building candidate who could unite our city’s disparate groups (except for Labor and Latinos, who she’s managed to alienate.) The reality is, Perry, like most politicians, is fierecely devoted to one minority group: those with money.
If you’re voting for her, you either approve of her “pro-business” agenda, or you’ve not yet seen the 2008 Academy Award-nominated documentary “The Garden.” The film tells the heartbreaking and enraging story of the South Central Farm, a 14-acre community garden and urban farm, the largest of its kind. Why heartbreaking and enraging? Here’s the synopsis from IMDB: It was started as a form of healing after the devastating L.A. riots in 1992. Since that time, the South Central Farmers have created a miracle in one of the country’s most blighted neighborhoods. Growing their own food. Feeding their families. Creating a community. But now bulldozers threaten their oasis. The Garden is an unflinching look at the struggle between these urban farmers and a powerful developer who want to evict them and build warehouses.
Spoiler alert: The powerful developer wins. The garden gets bulldozed. Many tears are shed, including from the eyes of any sensate person who watches the movie.
And the City Council member who got the deal done, who made sure the developer got what he wanted? Who sold out her constituents for the sake of greed? Someone who has lately been called a “leader,” a fine public servant, a civic-minded people person. Jan Perry.
On Tuesday, Los Angelenos will probably elect a different career politician, and Jan Perry can pursue her next conquest. Meanwhile, Pfc. Bradley Manning will be treated with ongoing dishonor and injustice. Wars and “development” will be celebrated as the American Way. And most of us will keep getting the words “hero” and “villain” mixed up.