Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Edward Snowden: Public Enemy or People's Hero?

I'm aware that due to PRISM, I will be flagged by the United States government for merely mentioning Edward Snowden's name. What will look even worse, is that I'm posting an article about him and sharing it to various forms of social media. I know this because of his crime. His "leak." Julian Assange. Bradley Manning. Names of a similar sort. Purported to be the public enemy, just as Snowden is now. We are told to be afraid of people with such innocuous looks, but such is the era of our existance. The internet age- an age of mass sharing, and instant information... where the greatest crime is the leaking of a few choice words. In Snowden's case... there were a lot more than a few. 

Traditionally, the men who disclosed sensitive material were called spies, and had been rightfully punished for their espionage. Committing treason out of greed. In these cases however, a monetary transaction had always been involved. Interestingly enough., Snowden  did NOT receive a reward for his actions. All he did was air the United State's dirty laundry to dry in front of the public eye. Seemingly.

Hmm... that doesn't seem like the an act of a villain-- knowingly destroy one's own life with virtually no gain. Is it truly wrong to share with the public just how far their government has gone to infringe on their privacy? It certainly seems selfless-- suicidally so. Is it treason? To the government, yes, yes it is. They see his actions as kicking a hornet's nest, causing internal and external unrest. The US government loses a tremendous amount of translucence and face. Worst of all, the leak compromises the programs and secrets that the government would argue were kept under wraps for the good of the country. To truth seekers, however, this is an act of heroism. The freedom of speech is a right Americans grow up learning to be an innate value. Why should our government be allowed to act in secret? What gives them the right to spy on our internet actions? Or listen to our phone calls? Why should we be caught in a net cast to catch terrorists? How the government guarantee that the "accidental" collection of our personal information will be discarded and not be used in a malicious and manipulative way?   

The answer is complicated.

How you perceive the integrity of Snowden's character really pivots on what you define to be right or wrong, where your values lie and your opinion on how strong government's arm should be.  On one hand, his leak could cripples the government's ability to collect data to prevent terrorist activity. On the other, it could also hamper the government's ability to infringe on the rights of the innocent. (Aka, you and I.) Is it even necessary? While it is true that terrorist attacks on our home soil post-911 are few and far in between, but it is also true that we have the government to thank for that. But was it their invasive policies that brought that about? Or was it just the wake-up call, 9-11 itself?The Patriot Act was easily passed around the time the Towers fell. The danger was real. Fear was fresh. But now, the danger is relatively lessened, yet the stiff policies remain. But that's just part of it. A small part of the uncertainty that contributes to the complexity of the situation and make the judgement of Snowden's actions such a hard call. 

So how can we ever find an answer to all the questions, add them up and make that call? Honestly, we can't accurately given the convulsed mess of lies, misinformation and what not. But I was taught to never accept defeat, so we shall press on. When you are faced with that which you cannot, you find that which you can. To put it less theatrically, do the best thing you can manage to do. So, in this instance, we tackle the jackpot question. If we can't answer them all, we answer the biggest and best one of them all. And that's whether or not Snowden committed a crime, or is simply expressing his freedom of speech.  

Wikileaks is an organization founded on the principal that all information should be free. This puts them at odds with pretty much every government on the face of the world.Why? Because secrets are the lubricant that allow each nation's higher ups to squeeze by smoothly. It's the grease that gets those questionable policies through, and the duct tape that plugs the holes of the government's blunders-- ethical or otherwise. While it's all well and good to say, "I think there should be no secrets!" it's extremely naive. Honesty is not the best policy, especially when you have to walk the world's thinnest tight rope when it comes to foreign relations. Other countries are sensitive lot, and the most minor upset could be the difference between an enemy and an ally. 

From an individual's perspective, most of our government's decisions don't make sense. Why should we ship out billions of dollars to other countries, especially when we are in debt? Why do we have to raise taxes and cut social programs? Why does the military need so much money? So many questions. The government faces a trillion daily. Governments are expected to answer all of them, otherwise they are accused of failing at their job. It's easy for us to question the government's actions-- challenge the faceless foe. Rise up against the man. (Well, easy in talk I mean.) But we don't have those responsibilities on our lap, do we? 

I'm not saying the government is always doing the right things. Nor am I not accusing them of being forever in the wrong. The same goes for Snowden. He's a human. Not a demon. Not an angel. Is it wrong to rebel and question? No, it's healthy. In fact, I'd go so far as to say it's... necessary. Is it right to meddle in matters greater than you? Probably not. So what am I saying? Which side am I taking? What's my point? What is the answer to the big question? Was he right or wrong!? Both. Or neither? Bah! How the hell should I know? My gut tells me to cheer for the guy because I don't like being watched without my consent, yet my head tells me to let the government to do their thing since I can't even fathom the gravity of the situation. 

I guess you could say I'm on the fence, but I'm by no means neutral-- make no mistake. Regardless of whether or not Edward Snowden's actions are right or wrong... he is not an evil man. He not an Osama Bin Laden. He's a a man with opinions and a genuine desire to do what he thinks is right. He is an American, just like me. Hell, he even looks a little like me!

 Beyond my gut and my head, there's a third party that helps me do my thinking-- and it settles the deadlocks between my head and gut. That breaker of ties is my heart, and it's been telling me Edward Snowden is a hero. Yes, government does need to maintain quite a few secrets to keep it going-- but there is a limit. There's a line they cannot cross, and they cannot cross it because of who they--no, WE-- are. The United States of America, a land birthed from the union of liberty and justice-- delivered by a revolution from tyranny. We can never become that which we defied, nor should we ever deny ourselves of the freedoms that constitute for our very existence. 

The USA prides itself as the land of the brave, and Edward Snow is being just that. He's not affiliated with terrorist groups. This won't destroy our country. Have the floodgates opened? Has anarchy broke loose? Have any of the American people, civilians, been harmed by this leak? No, no it hasn't, and no, they haven't. The government's shield of secrecy has been shattered, and we the people are BETTER for it. They can still force these online companies to fork over our information, but now we know about it. We know there's an eye on our shoulder. Who cares if the enemy knows? If anything, it might just ward them off. 

Of course, it's never good to listen to your heart is it, so I guess the real answer to the question will never be found-- at least not by me. Hero or villain, Snowden's integrity weighs on your perspective on a great many factors. So many, that it might just be impossible to tell. 

As for me, I will applaud Mr. Snowden for the size of his balls-- for their massive size is the only thing I can be certain of. I wish him luck in his quest to elude the US government. He'll need all of it... and then some.   

- B