Don’t tag Edward Snowden as someone he does not want to be; for he is neither a hero, nor a traitor. He is, or should be, a proud citizen of an evolving hopeful world who has earned such citizenship not by right of birth, ethnic background or bloodlines, or by loyalty oath, but by a selfless personal contribution to the building of a positive, more humane world… where privacy and individual freedoms take precedence over the sad spectacle we are becoming in the United States: an electorate-collective of mindless consumerists, a Borg-like serving a warmongering, corporate power-elite.
NSA-leaker, whistleblower… appellatives galore! American jingo-patriots and other self-pronounced devotees of the empire pound on this physically-fragile young man whose idealism is simplistic and yet profound, someone who sums up his actions in a dignified phrase: “I don’t want to live in a society that does these sort[s] of things … I do not want to live in a world where everything I do and say is recorded. That is not something I am willing to support or live under.”
Amen to that! Many of us envy the opportunity that Snowden has had in serving not just the interests of the American citizenry, but the interests of those wishing to live in a more humane and free world.
We cannot help but be pejorative, openly and merciless, when referring to a government that allows us to roam free in captivity… so long as we can cause little or no damage to the corporate-martial state wearing a democratic mask over an ugly, corrupt fascist face. And that is the reality, black and white, in front of us being presented as treasonous by the neocon crowd or, alternatively, as condescendingly “controversial” by much of the media trying to hold on to a few ounces of dignity which they feel they still have left.
Although whistleblowing has been part of the human condition from time immemorial, some of us have been privileged to witness during the past half century very significant, history-changing whistleblowing of crimes committed by governments, institutions, corporations, and individuals against the health (physical, mental and emotional) and wellbeing of society, its members, groupings and individuals. Some whistleblowing has come from disgruntled individuals with an ax to grind, but much has come from strong, motivated idealists who put their careers and lives on the line to let the public know of criminally-misguided secrecy/loyalty. Daniel Ellsberg drew our attention to the blatant immorality of our government during the Vietnam War (The Pentagon Papers)… and it was Dr. Jeffrey Wigand who put the nails to the a coffin of an industry (tobacco) that had been costing more lives and treasure than all of the wars (… and which unfortunately still does). Yes, during the past five decades we have seen the gamut of whistleblowing take place here in the United States, from disgruntled individuals often trying to exact personal revenge, to idealists masochistically seeking martyrdom; we might refer to the latter as non-Muslim jihadists of sorts. One thing for sure, none of the public disclosures that I can recall, regardless of source, had a detrimental effect for society; and society did greatly benefit from such public disclosure. So we may cast whistleblowers as heroes, or just ordinary people… but to call them traitors or villains appears as beyond the pale.
American zeitgeist, perhaps more pronouncedly than that of other major nations because of US’s leadership role, does not allow much room for criticism or dissent. Domestically, our government is well aware that most people prefer the illusion of safety over freedom and Congress-Pentagon-White House take advantage of that, as proven by Americans’ mind-boggling acceptance of the unconstitutional, authoritarian Patriot Act; and beyond our borders, where we are quickly learning that armed-conflict and world-policing is achieved far more successfully by drone than by marines.
Any debate as to whether Julian Assage, Edward Snowden, Chelsea (Bradley) Manning et al are heroes or villains is totally ill-conceived; we are likely to have to wait for history to declare hero-sainthood on any of them, but villains they definitely are not. And they should be protected by all of us – society – who have gained from their public disclosure. Let’s not forget for a minute that government has the power and the means to sway public discourse in its own interests, while these people have no such power or means; and these are the people who are helping us build a more constructive, hopeful world.