“Just say it. Cry out. Mercy,” said the magistrate to William Wallace in Mel Gibson’s Braveheart (1995). Wallace had already been drawn and quartered, so the king’s torturer was not offering to save his life. He promised only an end to the torture with a quicker, more merciful death.
The Wallace of the film refuses to speak the words the king’s magistrate commands and cries “Freedom!” instead. Realizing further torture will not produce his desired result, the magistrate reluctantly gives the order to cut off Wallace’s head.
Gibson’s film is short on historical accuracy but serves as a perfect metaphor for life in America today. The citizens of the former “land of the free” are being metaphorically tortured to say the words their rulers wish them to say, whether they be “safe and effective” or “they/them” or “plucky little democracy.” For some, like Gonzalo Lira, it is not metaphorical.
Lira was an American citizen, born in Burbank, California, and living in Ukraine – the supposed “plucky little democracy” – where he had two young children. Lira was arrested in May of 2023 and charged with violating laws prohibiting certain types of speech. Specifically, Lira criticized the Zelensky government, contradicted the narrative that the Russian invasion was unprovoked, and generally painted a much more pessimistic picture of Ukrainian success in the war than was claimed by the Ukrainian government and western media.
Importantly, virtually all of the “disinformation” Lira was accused of spreading turned out to be true. As Tucker Carlson has said on more than one occasion, one is not punished for lying about the regime. One is only punished for telling the truth.
That it was not the U.S. government that tortured and killed Lira directly should fool no one. Since the U.S. overthrew the democratically elected government of Ukraine (for the second time) in 2014, nothing has happened in that country that wasn’t either directed or given tacit approval by the U.S. government.” We have direct evidence of that from the leaked recording of Victoria Nuland discussing her plans for who would run Ukraine with Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt.
This includes Zelensky’s nonstop shelling of civilian neighborhoods just before the Russian invasion in February 2022 and the imprisonment and death of Gonzalo Lira over the past several months.
As Daniel McAdams wrote in his piece about Lira, “One call from the White House or State Department could have saved California-born journalist Gonzalo Lira’s life.” But that phone call never came, because the U.S. government wasn’t interested in saving the life of a U.S. citizen critical of its pet project on Russia’s border. If it were, it certainly would have been easier to get Lira out of Ukraine than it was to get Brittney Griner out of Russia.
Lira is only the latest in a series of people persecuted by the government, directly or indirectly, for telling truths the government doesn’t want you to hear. The persecution of Julian Assange continues as does the exile of Edward Snowden, both of whom did nothing other than publish facts damaging to the government.
No one has refuted anything either man said. Both told the truth. In fact, Snowden was resourceful enough to publish his evidence in pieces. Each time the government responded to one revelation; he would release another showing the government was lying even in response. He was also savvy enough to keep his physical person out of the clutches of the empire. Assange and Lira unfortunately weren’t.
The most disappointing part of these three men’s stories isn’t the brutal treatment they’ve received from the government. It’s the indifference of the public. Snowden gave us proof the government was illegally and unconstitutionally surveilling U.S. citizens en masse, without warrants or probable cause, and lying to Congress about it under oath. And nobody cared.
Make no mistake: the government’s treatment of Lira, Assange, and Snowden is a message to each and every one of us about what they will do to anyone who exposes their crimes to too many people. They would treat every one of us accused of “repeating Putin talking points” or being “an asset of the Kremlin” the exact same way if they thought they could get away with it. The persecution of January 6 protestors is one more step down that path.
In a heartbreaking video, just before he was arrested for the final time before his death, Lira pleaded:
“I would ask you, humbly, that if you don’t hear from me again, anybody and everybody who is watching this video, please raise a ruckus, raise a fuss. Because ultimately, as you can see in the indictment that I posted on Twitter, all the pages are there, you can read it for yourself, in Ukrainian and in English, the charges against me are just because of my opinion about this conflict. I did no harm to anyone.”
Does an American public that cowered in their homes during the Covid hysteria and mindlessly parroted imperial slogans about Ukraine have the wherewithal to raise a ruckus about any of these men who have given their lives for their freedom? Do they even have the capacity, at this point, to heed Lira’s final words, “Understand what’s going on?”
Reprinted with permission from Tom Mullen Talks Freedom.