Thinking, speaking, and acting freely in an unfree world is often seen as an act of rebellion by those who hold power, privilege, and fealty to the ideas that support a given society’s power structures.
And that means there will be much acrimony, harrumphing, and even outright blood-lust displayed by those with power and those who worship power in response to any individual seeking a greater sense of freedom and expression for himself and his fellows.
To stand up against such unjust powers is not easy. It requires courage, conviction, and a willingness to actively withdraw one’s consent from the actions of the powerful. It demands one sever all those bonds that once used to make up the comforts of one’s life: family, friends, coworkers, and even one’s country. It is a cruel, unusual, and perilous task to stand against unjust powers, but sometimes it is necessary for the sake of one’s love for humanity being governed by truth, justice, and liberty.
As Frederick Douglass once remarked:
Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will submit to, and you have found out the exact amount of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them; and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.
Such has been true throughout history, a struggle of liberty against power, and such continues to this day as displayed by the Edward Snowden saga.
As Snowden has revealed, the U.S. intelligence community, operating in the extralegal shadows of the the intelligence agencies, is the world’s largest purveyor of personal information in the name of “security.” The public has now confirmed what they long suspected to be true: the NSA, under the purview of the secret FISA court, has built an “architecture of oppression” which is being used for the transnational collection of free communications of innately free people.
In a letter by Snowden to Brazil from December of 2013, the whistleblower writes:
My act of conscience began with a statement: ‘I don’t want to live in a world where everything that I say, everything I do, everyone I talk to, every expression of creativity or love or friendship is recorded. That’s not something I’m willing to support, it’s not something I’m willing to build, and it’s not something I’m willing to live under.’
Days later, I was told my government had made me stateless and wanted to imprison me. The price for my speech was my passport, but I would pay it again: I will not be the one to ignore criminality for the sake of political comfort. I would rather be without a state than without a voice.
I’ll say it here and now, the statement, “I would rather be without a state than without a voice,” will go down in history as a guiding beacon, a brave statement of civil disobedience recognizing the innate right of each human being to speak boldly in the face of fear of molestation, confinement, and death from those with power.
And now that voice, Snowden’s voice, is being heard worldwide through the massive reach of online social media.
Can you hear me now?
— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) September 29, 2015
Yes, we can hear you loud and clear, Ed.
Snowden wants to make something clear: this cause is bigger than him. This is not about Snowden himself. This is not simply about whether he is a hero or a traitor or can be trusted. This is about a symbol; about what Snowden represents: freedom over power, truth over lies, the ability of one determined person to stand up against the powers that be and change the world, even if not one’s own lifetime, for the better.
So, if you praise Snowden and call him a hero, remember what you are really praising is the cause of liberty. And don’t just call him a hero. That is not enough. Ponder whether or not you are carrying the torch of freedom. Can you do more?
And, if you damn Snowden and call him a treasonous traitor, I would like to remind you of these words from Cato’s Letters that helped spark the American revolution, “… I know not what treason is, if sapping and betraying the liberties of a people be not treason …”
Have our liberties been sapped and betrayed by the people sworn to uphold them?
I know how I would answer the question. I know how Snowden would answer the question. But you must decide. Read the evidence. Weigh on the scales of justice where you fealty rests and why.
— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) October 5, 2015
— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) October 5, 2015
Mr. Snowden’s symbolic importance aside, I still do care for the well being of this man on a personal level. I do not want to see his voice taken away. I do not wish to see him tortured and made a martyr. But it may well come to that.
Snowden is willing to risk spending most of his remaining days in a jail cell simply for a chance to step on American soil again and have his day in court. Whether or not this will come to pass, we will see in the fullness of time. But in the meantime:
What are you willing to risk for the cause of liberty?