Religion in Family, Assange, and Manning

Dear Brian,
: I told my family that I no longer wanted to be a Christian. How can I get over this argument?

I told my family that I no longer wanted to be a Christian, and we got into a fight. I don’t remember much. I was so upset, and I said some stupid things. I think I said something like “I’m not worshiping some “f” blonde hair, blue eyes crucified dead Jew”.  I should say that my family is a

Messianic Jewish family. Jesus is very important to them, and this really hurt my mom. I feel like trash for hurting my mom. I don’t know how to get over this argument, and make my mom feel better, but at the same time I want them to respect me and decisions.

I grew up in a very conservative, Catholic, military family (which is to say pretty much everyone over 3 generations of my family joined the military). I, on the other hand, stopped voting 3 years ago, quit the Army after 6 months (only joined because I didn’t know any other way), and believe human beings are a hivemind and the collective consciousness is God.

I’m now 35 years old, and my parents and I still don’t get along. The further I go down my path, the deeper my mom delves into her Christianity looking to her external deity to intervene and stop me from being such a heathen.

When I blew the whistle on the banks, my military parents were terrified about me fighting the system.

When I started meditating and looking internally for answers instead of praying externally for them, my perspective began changing. I tried explaining the collective conscious to my mom, and her response was to call a psychiatrist from the local mental institute in the small, conservative, military town she lives in (which I will never again live in) and try having me committed.

Because of our differing belief systems, my mom became a clear and present danger to my livelihood and so I avoid her like the plague and refuse to go anywhere near her physically.

Holding a different religious belief (and general outlook on life) than my parents is the single biggest obstacle I’ve had to overcome in my life, and the rift between us will never be repaired, no matter how much we all want it to be because I want them to accept me for who I am, and they want me to fit into the mold they believe is the only single right way to live.

I don’t think you’ll ever truly “get over” this argument. You just have to decide if you love them enough to bite your tongue and pretend whenever you’re around them.

Dear Brian,
Who is a worse villain or better hero: Bradley Manning or Julian Assange?

Or if you think both are villains, the same relative ordering can apply.  But interested in what people think about their relative merits.
Bradley Manning leaked information to Julian Assange in early 2010. Bradley Manning was the whistleblower source and Julian Assange was the journalist.

By December 2010, both men were under heavy scrutiny. PayPal, Visa, Bank of America, and others enacted an embargo to stop payments to Wikileaks. In response, Anonymous rose to prominence, as journalists, hackers, and others who knew of the story began fighting back against the system.

That December, HBGary (a subsidiary of HBGary Federal), an information contractor for the US government and a variety of corporations (including Bank of America) was “hacked” when someone social-engineered their way into their email servers (after Aaron Barr bragged about his 1337 status in the media).

Among the incriminating documents in that leak were Word docs, PowerPoint presentations, and Excel spreadsheets showing a smear campaign against Julian Assange, Wikileaks and other journalists who were supporting Wikileaks.

Because of Manning’s leak, however you feel about it, the public got a chance to see how real Enterprise Risk Management plans are used in the real world. This was millions of dollars in anti-marketing campaigns.

In January 2011, I left my job at Bank of America, and got to read these documents. When I left my job, the bank’s corporate security called the police and filed a bomb threat against  me. When I tried talking to the Wall Street Journal, they smeared my name.

If not for Bradley Manning and Julian Assange, I would not have survived and been able to affect all this regulation: force-placed insurance – Google Search

To me, these people are heroes, though I wouldn’t dare rate them against each other. They’re equal to each other, Adrian Lamo, Aaron Swartz, Jeremy Hammond, Barrett Brown, Amber Lyon, and every other person who contributed to this movement. Each piece is important to me in order to paint the big picture.

As time went on, I watched Bradley Manning’s trial and his transformation into Chelsea Manning. I’ve written a couple letters to her, but I tore them up. They always end up being too long and losing focus.

I watched Julian Assange get holed up in the U.K., watched his show on RT, and even watched the livestreams when he fled to the Ecuadorian embassy. Some anonymous person I assume was Assange contacted me when I leaked the bank emails in March 2011. On Mother’s Day 2013, I told his mom on Twitter how much I appreciated her for standing by him.

By the time Edward Snowden leaked his information to Glen Greenwald, the Wikileaks crew, journalists, activists, hackers, and pirates everywhere were already savvy to the process. The Arab Spring, BART protests, and Occupy movement all evolved around the movement Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning were a part of – the movement to free all the information.

The reason I was able to survive was because I saw what happened, and I was able to plan accordingly. I didn’t trust the media, and instead of the WSJ, I started working with Anonymous. Then I started working on becoming the journalist, because when the source is the journalist, they can’t divide me – the opsec is better.

We all learned a lot from Manning’s leak to Julian Assange about freedom of speech, the press, transparency, the inner workings of government, media, and corporations.

Look beyond the narrative you’re fed and always keep the big picture in mind. All of these people are still alive, and this isn’t a story to them. They wake up every morning just like you do, and many of them are waking up and spending their daily lives dealing with horrible realities that most only hypothesize about.

Think about how Julian Assange feels every day knowing he can’t go outside (or even into the wrong hallway) without being immediately arrested.

Think about how Chelsea Manning feels every day knowing she’s not on the cover of Vanity Fair being celebrated, but is instead living in prison, held from having her surgery.

Think about how Adrián Lamo feels every day knowing a sizable section of the population wants to kill him over a story they read on the Internet they know nothing about. He’s as much Bradley Manning as anyone.

Think about how Edward Snowden feels every day knowing at any moment some Russian or Chinese assassin can end his life, and the only thing keeping him alive is the protection of the U.S. government, who’s only doing it so they won’t be blamed.

Think about how these men struggle to eat 3 meals a day, earn a living, and try to deal with the same struggles of every day you do, because that’s what they’re still doing every single day until they die.

Real life gets terrifying when you involve yourself in the real-life Game of Thrones. Individual humans can be reasoned with, but a crowd of people are quick to pick up pitchforks and torches. These are real stories we’re talking about that happened to real people who exist in this same world we all do.

I think they’re all heroes, and I owe each one of them my life…

But make your own decision…

Brian Penny Versability Anonymous WhistleblowerBrian Penny is a former Business Analyst and Operations Manager at Bank of America turned whistleblower, troll, and freelance writer. His work has appeared in Huffington Post, High Times, Fast Company, The Street, Cannabis Now, Hardcore Droid, and your mom.


Dr. Brian Penny is a former Business Analyst and Operations Manager at Bank of America turned whistleblower, troll, and freelance writer. You can find his work in Cracked, High Times, HuffPost, Lifewire, Forbes, Fast Company, and dozens of other places, although much of it is no longer under his name. Dr. Penny loves annoying fake media.

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