Thursday, July 4, 2013

We just can't see the end of the world...

Warning, I first started this post a week or two ago but am posting it as originally written. Sorry if it seems a bit dated:

No, I'm not referring to the new Brad Pitt movie opening this weekend, World War Z. That would be too easy. Besides, it's a zombie movie and I don't like zombie movies. Nor horror movies, for that matter.

No, I'm actually thinking about the issues tied to the US government essentially spying on its own people and the fascination that is focused more on the source of those leaks (one Edward Snowden) than on the issue he revealed. It has made me want to step back and pause for a bit before offering any comment here. And even then, I will try to keep my commentary short and reserved.

Mr. Snowden, despite the best efforts of journalist Glenn Greenwald to the contrary, is not necessarily a hero protecting the rights of US citizens. He committed a crime. He stole information from his employer (in this case, Booz Allen Hamilton and the US government) and then publicized it to the rest of the world. And the rest of the world has subsequently spent the last few weeks attempting to dissect his intentions. Frankly, that is a wasted effort. It is impossible to discern someone's true intentions. They may say one thing yet have something else that drives it. Heck, it is similar to attempting to determine the real reason that George W Bush invaded Iraq in 2003. Once he committed the act, the reason became somewhat moot. The same holds here. Suggesting that Snowden here is a Chinese spy, a hero, a mercenary, a traitor or any of the other myriad reasons is really irrelevant at this point. All are probably true to some degree. And to suggest that his subsequent actions (such as now seeking asylum in Ecuador which, in 2012, received a partly free rating from Freedom House and is trending downward in that ranking scale) all validate his actions or that he has not changed since his thoughts and beliefs since he made headlines would be disingenuous at best. Regardless, the story has been focused on Mr. Snowden in an attempt to paint him as his supporters or detractors wish to paint him.

What has escaped much of the scrutiny have been the actions he revealed on the part of the US government. And surely it is no surprise that the government has worked very strenuously to keep his name in the headlines - in a very negative light in the (perhaps vain?) hope that it will not look so bad in comparison. Yes, at this point, the actions of the US government under the auspices of President Obama should be highlighted and yet they are not. A man who sought the presidency back in 2008 promising change and greater transparency has instead not only left the tools and mechanisms created by his predecessor (while promising to find ways to remove them on the rare occasions when challenged about them) but also sought to limit the rights of citizens to know what his administration is doing. As noted in many journalistic outlets, the Obama administration has worked hard to silence and prevent leaks, aggressively prosecuting whistleblowers and even going so far as to monitor journalists in trying to find those who are leaking information. Instead of the transparency promised by the president, it seems that it has gone to extremes in the other direction. And this is a problem because it sublimates issues such as the one Mr. Snowden has brought to light. Instead of the issues Mr. Snowden brought to light being addressed clearly and openly, the focus has been switched instead to the man himself. And we, the people, are too easily fooled to recognize it.

Americans have always believed that their nation is a great one and have believed in (and cherished) the ideals for which it stood. But today, instead of continuing to work hard to make their country great, they stand idly by while their government grows more into the tyranny that their forefathers fought against generations ago. They do not see where the changes taking place within the government are simply one large step in a very wrong direction and they do not care to know what the likely consequences will be. They are accustomed to others doing their thinking and their work for them and fewer are able and willing to step up to the line to continue the traditions that once made America great. Freedom and liberty are not just words or even ideals but a way of life that was previously unknown in the form once made accessible by the United States of America. We can only hope that way of life will not disappear again under the treacherous idea of "security".

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