It seemed a little disingenuous to celebrate Independence Day today. Although we had a perfectly lovely time at our town’s lively July 4th parade, my mind kept wandering to the endlessly entertaining saga that has become the Snowden scandal.
No matter what you think of Snowden’s actions – hero, patriot, whistleblower, criminal, dumb-ass, all of the above – the exposure of the NSA’s top-secret intelligence gathering program raises compelling questions about government overreach, individual freedoms and loss of privacy in a post-9/11 world. After much reflection, I fall into the “Snowden is sort of a dumb-ass” camp. My reasons are four-fold.
(1) You have to be a hubristic idiot to do all of that planning to obtain the documents, disclose them, confess your actions, but not have a rock-solid escape route.
(2) He strikes me as an attention-seeking guy (didn’t he want to be a model?) whose actions might be considered brave by some measure, but also somewhat cowardly. He was willing to confess to being the person behind the disclosures, yet not willing to stay in the States to face the consequences of his actions. Instead, he finds himself in diplomatic limbo, with nary a country – at least as of this writing – willing to take him in. More on this last point in #4 below.
(3) Speaking of which, why in the hell did he enlist the help of Julian Assange and his WikiLeaks minions? Assange himself has been in purgatory of his own, holed up in the Ecuadorean embassy in London for more than a year. Not the model I’d be looking to emulate if I needed to obtain asylum after disclosing top-secret documents involving the spying practices of one of the most powerful countries in the world, but then again, what do I know?
(4) I suppose what disturbs me most about this story is that the revelations should have shocked me, but didn’t. Do I like what our government is doing? No. But do I find it surprising? No. And that saddens me. But it does make me wonder whether Snowden will have ultimately done all of this for nothing. If the outrage he was hoping to elicit doesn’t manifest itself or his actions don’t lead to meaningful changes in the government’s policies, then he’s f**ked up his life for what? And with the disclosure that other countries (see France) have similar data collection programs, consternation on a more global scale will be even harder to come by. As will a safe haven for him – because if I’m the leader of a country that also engages in these spying practices, why in god’s name would I want someone like Snowden to live within my borders? What’s to stop him from causing my country the same headaches he’s caused the U.S.?
All of these thoughts were running through my head as I enjoyed our town’s quaint old-time parade and the participants who celebrated July 4 and its attendant symbolism with dancing, music, singing, candy and water guns.
A final musing: I wonder whether Snowden craved hot dogs and apple pie today or if he’s already converted to borscht…