12.9.2022 | Friday

Griner, Whelan, & The Merchant of Death

category: Political Madness

reading time: 3 minutes

I wish the anger associated with the release of Brittney Griner from the Russian penal colony was less surprising. However, it is not. The last several years have made it very clear that expecting the best from humanity is rather pointless.

The underlying rhetoric is that one American life has more value than another. That Whelan, who’s still in prison in Russia, is worth more than Griner.

So let’s talk about that anger…

Is it because Griner is Black? Because she’s a woman? Because she’s a lesbian? Or all of the above?

Did she break the law? Sure. Even if it was a mistake, in that part of the world, it is a stupid mistake to make. But a Russian penal colony isn’t a place you’d wish your worst enemy into.

What makes her have less value than Whelan, a white man? Let’s look at a couple of those arguments.

She knelt in protest during the national anthem, so she hates the United States.

And? She knelt in protest of racial injustice. That in no way is a statement that she hates the country. That’s BS rhetoric that blatantly ignores the point.

She has a criminal record already.

Correct. Several years ago, domestic violence between her and her ex, both of whom received minor injuries. She completed 26 weeks of counseling, and the charges were dropped. DV is a terrible thing, and I make NO excuses for it.

So yes, she has a criminal record.

But so does the man everyone is painting as an oppressed hero.

Whelan was kicked out of the Marine Corps Reserves on a dishonrable/bad conduct discharge for derelection of duty, making false statements, attempted larceny, using someone else’s SSN, using someone else’s military account to change his mil records, and a slew of charges for passing bad checks. A few of those are non-judicial infractions but by no means all of them.

Does any of that mean there shouldn’t be negotiations to bring him home, too? Of course not. Again, a Russian penal colony is a terrible place. I wouldn’t want ANYONE there. He absolutely needs to be released.

There seems to be a widespread dismissal of the reality of the situation.

No one knows all the details of how this deal was negotiated. That’s just the truth of it. Not a single one of us knows the in’s and out’s of the negotiations.

There’s this weird assumption that our government had the choice of one or the other to negotiate for, and that Griner was chosen because she was the token Black lesbian woman.


For one thing, the Russian government made it clear that Whelan’s release would only happen in the event that a Russian spy was released in kind. A criteria that has nothing to do with Griner.

For another thing, Griner’s release in no way means that negotiations aren’t continuing for Whelan. It wasn’t a one-or-the-other, this-is-your-final-answer deal.

As for the argument that we traded The Merchant of Death for her return…

Fair argument.

It absolutely sucks that The Merchant of Death was returned. 100%. I could not, would not, disagree with that statement.

But returning The MoD would have sucked equally as much if it was Whelan who came home, instead of Griner.

Or Whelan and Griner both. There is no scenario in which the return of The MoD would be any more palatable.

But I wonder… would the anger be the same if it was Whelan who was released? Doesn’t seem likely with the way he’s held up as the Great American Hero.

Which leads me right back to the beginning. What is it that bothers so many?

Is it her Blackness, her femaleness, or her sexuality?

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