So I sat down tonight to write my once a fortnight letter to Chelsea Manning.
I'm not a pen pal kind of guy. In fact I generally suck at snailmail - the internet has been and is my primary source of non-family human interaction. I send emails. I write diaries. I post on Facebook to my friends. I used to regularly use Livejournal before it became the electronic land of Russian spam. I don't DO letters on paper in envelopes with postage.
But I write Chelsea Manning every two weeks. I'm not exactly sure why, I just do. The letters aren't more than a page or two, sort of a general recap of my week and things I am thinking about that are not political - and off they go in the mailbox.
I don't get replies so far - I may never get one. But the idea of her sitting there alone really bothers me and I hope that my little stupid letters bring her a moment of happiness and connection to the outside world.
I talk about my boat. I talk about the weather. I talk about the sounds and the smells of fall and the monsoon in Louisiana. I talk about being a regular human being living a boring life in the hopes that she can just for a moment see it with me.
I lived at Ft. Levenworth as a kid for a little over a year. Col CatLady was a Major then and had not shown his cat lady side - he was attending Command and General Staff College - well on his way to a bright future as a General and positions of power. Pretty heady stuff for someone who wasn't a ring knocker.
I've seen the military prison and the Federal prison both - military people can do tours of the facilities. I've seen the monotony and the restricted lives they lead in their little cells - and it affected me even then. So I write.
I don't send anything - I'm not sure what the rules are for pictures, I just send words and paint them as best I can. The sound of the woods behind our house at night. The sight of the harvest moon peeking through the greenery of a sukkah roof. Sitting and laughing with my Mum until midnight in the back garden. The torrential rain that comes out of nowhere and pours like the end of the world. It's not like that in Kansas.
If you would like to write to Chelsea Manning her address is:
PVT Bradley E Manning
1300 N Warehouse Rd
Ft Leavenworth KS 66027-2304
From the Pvt. Manning Support Network:
PVT Manning is currently eligible to receive mail from anyone who wishes to write.
There are restrictions on what you can send. The military will reject any mail that violates postal regulations or contains obscenity, blackmail, contraband or threats. Additionally:
PVT Manning cannot receive any cash, checks, or money orders. Her legal team is currently responsible for ensuring that she has sufficient funds in her detainee account to purchase items such as stamps, envelopes, toothpaste, etc.
Photographs are only accepted if printed on copy paper. A maximum of six (6) pages are allowed. Pictures on photograph weight paper are not allowed.
Incoming mail will be returned to the sender if, in the opinion of the confinement facility, falls into any of the following categories: 1) Contains inflammatory material or advocates escape, violence, disorder or assault; 2) Directly or indirectly threatens the security, safety or order of the facility; 3) Contains coded or otherwise undecipherable language that prevents adequate review of the material; 4) Is received with “Postage Due”; or 5) Contains items of contraband (including anything of any material value, including postage stamps or cigarettes).