Henry David Thoreau, Edward Snowden: On Heroes, Traitors and Cowards

ON THE DUTY OF CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE is one of the seminal essays in the history of the United States. We are Americans, and we do things a certain way. Our government, and the rules and actions and regulations or our government are always subject to scrutiny, and, in certain cases, rejection. We are an independent lot. That is a major reason for our success as a nation. Rebelliousness is a part of our national character. How could it not be since we were born of a rebellion known as the American Revolution. Irreverence is our calling card, and our rejection of rules and convention is the means by which we innovate, invent, alter paradigms and change the world, in science, art technology, music, everything. But we rebel in a certain way.

When Ralph Waldo Emerson went to the jail to get Thoreau out after he had been incarcerated for refusing to pay a tax he considered unjust, Emerson said, “Henry David, what are you doing in there?” Thoreau replied, “What are you doing out there?” The point is that the American spirit of Civil Disobedience requires that we accept responsibility for the rule of law. If we are going to break the law, we face the consequences. Those who don’t are both cowards and criminals. Cowards run. Traitors go to the enemy. Heroes accept responsibility and put their life in the way of wrong, even if it is their government committing the wrong.

During the Vietnam War, which was one of the most destructive and divisive events in our history, there was a level of resistance that began at a grass roots level and worked its way  to the top. It was a cruel, unjustified, and misdirected war started by politicians waving ideologies, and finally stopped by the people themselves. That’s never happened before and probably never will again. A discussion of that war is not a blog, it’s a hundred blogs. But that history has been written many times over and there is no need to repeat it here. During that era a young man of draft age had three main alternatives if drafted. Serve in the armed forces, refuse to serve and stay home and face the consequences, or go to Canada, or some other country that would provide safe harbor. Your choice said a lot about you.

I will not mention Edward Snowden in the same paragraph with those above. He is arrogant, a narcissist, and a coward. I believe he would and did jeopardize the safety of this country to satisfy his own ego. I believe he thought he was going to be hailed as a hero. This is the heart of the matter: Heroes don’t run. Cowards and traitors do.

3 thoughts on “Henry David Thoreau, Edward Snowden: On Heroes, Traitors and Cowards

  1. In his words:

    1) First, the US Government, just as they did with other whistleblowers, immediately and predictably destroyed any possibility of a fair trial at home, openly declaring me guilty of treason and that the disclosure of secret, criminal, and even unconstitutional acts is an unforgivable crime. That’s not justice, and it would be foolish to volunteer yourself to it if you can do more good outside of prison than in it.

    Second, let’s be clear: I did not reveal any US operations against legitimate military targets. I pointed out where the NSA has hacked civilian infrastructure such as universities, hospitals, and private businesses because it is dangerous. These nakedly, aggressively criminal acts are wrong no matter the target. Not only that, when NSA makes a technical mistake during an exploitation operation, critical systems crash. Congress hasn’t declared war on the countries – the majority of them are our allies – but without asking for public permission, NSA is running network operations against them that affect millions of innocent people. And for what? So we can have secret access to a computer in a country we’re not even fighting? So we can potentially reveal a potential terrorist with the potential to kill fewer Americans than our own Police? No, the public needs to know the kinds of things a government does in its name, or the “consent of the governed” is meaningless.

    • Anyone who does not realize that everything everyone does electronically or physically, which is in anyway connected to the internet, a phone network, a cable network, a GPS system, video surveillance, whether private or governmental, is not only visible, but a matter of record for anyone with skills or access to view at any time, is ridiculously naive. Snowden is not capable of knowing what surveillance is used for, or why, and the tracking of seemingly benign targets may, in fact, be critical. This has been the case repeatedly in the last ten years. What is most damaging is to focus the attention of those who ought to be under surveillance on the fact that they are being surveilled. There is no privacy. In my mind, a bigger intrusion than the government tracking tens of billions of messages, is my spending and social media presence being followed and intruded upon by Google or Apple, Amazon, Target, Sears, etc. Wait and watch. At some point we will find out all of this is also being accessed by foreign governments and hackers and organizations with political agendas. Is surveillance really that pervasive, do we live in a PERSON OF INTEREST world? Ask the Tsarnaev brothers or Aaron Hernandez? Hernandez made a conscientious effort to avoid surveillance, and about the only the only thing the cops don’t have is a video of the actual murder. Yet.

      If you want privacy, get off the damn grid, and avoid population centers, i.e., any place with more than ten people. Of course, there are still satellites, so you’ll have to stay in a cave or a subway tunnel to avoid those. Wanting or expecting privacy for anything in anyway electronic, is like walking down the middle of Fifth Avenue at high noon and telling people not to look at you and expecting them to comply. I’m not paranoid. That’s just the way it is. I know it. Everyone should. Assume your every action can be tracked, seen, listened to. You probably don’t remember when, twenty or thirty years ago, AT&T acknowledged they could listen in on any phone–in any home that had one–even when the receiver was on the hook. My fourth novel, THE DARK FOREVER, to be completed next year, deals with the problem of two people trying to communicate covertly. It’s almost impossible, but not quite. Privacy, at least any ideal construct we may have in our head based on a nostalgic paradigm, does not exist at this point in time. Snowden is not only a traitor in my mind, he’s a narcissistic dumbass. That’s as bad or worse.

      Thanks for your comment.

  2. Pingback: Simplicity Day | Always a Reason to Party

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