Of patriots and pariahs
“These are the times that try men’s souls: The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain, too cheap, we esteem too lightly:–‘Tis dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to set a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed, if so celestial an article as Freedom should not be highly rated. Britain, with an army to enforce her tyranny, has declared, that she has a right (not only to TAX) but “to BIND us in ALL CASES WHATSOEVER,” and if being bound in that manner is not slavery, then is there not such a thing as slavery upon earth. Even the expression is impious, for so unlimited a power can belong only to God. – Thomas Paine, The American Crisis
Edward Snowden’s disclosure of NSA documents and the recent recovery of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl have some interesting parallels. The controversy surrounding each involves whether they should be considered patriots or pariahs. Mr. Snowden, a former NSA contract employee apparently moved by his conscience, chose to reveal documents and information about that government agency’s illegal activities. Sgt. Bergdahl, an army soldier now released from 5 years of captivity with the Taliban, has stirred up considerable doubt about his fidelity a soldier and he’s been labeled a traitor by some. Each in their own way have revisited the meaning of patriotism.
On a recent Fox News broadcast one panelist put it this way, speaking about Edward Snowden…
“I don’t mind being lectured by Ron about the Fourth Amendment and privacy because I respect Ron, but I don’t want to be lectured by a traitor who speaks from a land that doesn’t have a Constitution, or had one and it was entirely eviscerated by a thug who just invaded another land,” Charles Krauthammer said.
Of course Krauthammer is referring to Russia, but he doesn’t seem to recognize that the U.S. doesn’t have a constitution anymore, or at least one we hold in any real legal regard, and it’s due in large part to lying lawyers like himself. But then that is a post for another day. It’s Krauthammer’s kind that have eviscerated the constitution and sicced their curious legal system onto society turning it into a miasma of American life. As it goes to judging traitors or patriots, Mr. Krauthammer is in the same proverbial pot as others calling the kettle black.
Mr. Krauthammer and the many like him who sell Snowden as a scandalous traitor forget the sentiment about which Thomas Paine writes in the quote above. What Paine values is freedom not government. Perhaps now as at no other time in the history of the U.S. is the meaning and intent of each more clear. In fact, it’s a pity that many in American society today know so little of it for they would understand more deeply the sentiments of which Paine writes. Paine’s words, “What we obtain, too cheap, we esteem too lightly:–‘Tis dearness only that gives every thing its value…” speaks to the relinquishment of the personal responsibility and accountability of freedom. Instead, media outlets and political pundits are among those quick to oversimplify the lines between patriots and traitors, and in doing so keep the citizenry in the chauvinistic fight. It’s a trumped up, propagandistic fight not worth fighting…
But even the definition of “patriot” has some quibble-worthy areas embedded in it. Online, Merriam Webster defines a patriot as either “a person who loves and strongly supports or fights for his or her country” or “one who loves his or her country and supports its authority and interests.” Well, what if supporting its authority and supporting its interests don’t line up? That’s certainly Snowden’s sense of what he did. “I mean, I’ve from day one said that I’m doing this to serve my country,” he told [NBC’s Brian Williams].
“My country, right or wrong,” G. K. Chesterton wrote, “is a thing that no patriot would think of saying except in a desperate case. It is like saying, ‘My mother, drunk or sober.’”Ambrose Bierce had a similarly jaundiced view, calling a patriot “the dupe of statesmen and the tool of conquerors.”
The real question isn’t who is or isn’t a patriot. It’s what is a patriot. If Sgt. Bergdahl has deserted, if he has “declared jihad” and fraternized with the “enemy”, as some have said, then what or who has he betrayed? Is it not his fellow soldiers more than the government which commissioned him?
“I had a responsibility while I was there to the guys I was with, and that’s why this hits the hardest,” said [Javier] Ortiz [former combat medic], who was in Iraq from March 2003 to March 2004 with the 101st Airborne Division. “Regardless of what you learned while being there, we still have a responsibility to the men to our left and right. It’s terrible, what he did.”
Shakespeare stated, “Cowards die many times before their deaths. The valiant never taste of death but once.” Snowden was no coward. I’m sure he counted the cost of his actions before he took them, and now he’s paying the price. Snowden had a similar responsibility to the American people in the same respect that Bergdahl had a responsibility to his fellow soldiers. Perhaps Bergdahl was craven, but if he is no patriot it’s because he betrayed the men to the right and left of him, not those in Washington. Mr. Snowden may have been hired to do a job as an NSA contractor, but his fundamental responsibility was to the honour and freedom of his fellow American countrymen. It’s ironic that the job for which he was hired was ostensibly working to protect those freedoms. To shoulder the argument about taking sides in the popular patriot/traitor debate is a ridiculous undertaking because the terms are defined by people, first of all, with a vested interest in keeping the debate going, and second of all, who misuse the terms to begin with. Following their logic it won’t be long before we’ll all be pariahs.
Snowden may have violated the terms of his employment, but his were actions necessary. Either continue down the merry path to tyranny and despotism with the not so calm assurance that responsibility to law and the discharge of a duty to evil was done, or realize that the ethics of emptiness will lead to annihilation.
Snowden and Bergdahl were each government employees, performing their respective roles in the commission of their jobs, but as Thomas Paine would know, it’s not government that is dear to us, it is liberty. Neither is government the people. It is the spirit we wrestle against. It is that enemy we face before ourselves daily. It is that which seeks to rule over us, and who really are the, as Gen. Patrick Cleburn might say, “fit subjects of derision”. It is the one who steals…
An Oklahoma man is facing over $100,000 in hospital bills because he lost his health insurance plan due to Obamacare. Lenny Hubbs, a “healthy man,” as his wife describes him, is a self-employed contractor who was previously on his wife’s health insurance plan. Her employer announced that his employees would no longer be allowed to pay for their spouses’ premiums.
…the Obama Administration boasted that six million people had signed up for Obamacare. There was not a word about Frank Alfisi. Frank Alfisi was killed by Obamacare. His daughter, Amy DiFrancesca, is furious. And yes, she quite specifically blames the President of the United States for her father’s death. As did the doctor who told Amy: “You can thank Mr. Obama for this.”
In what appears to be the first court decision addressing the issue, U.S. Magistrate Judge James Francis in New York said Internet service providers such as Microsoft Corp or Google Inc cannot refuse to turn over customer information and emails stored in other countries when issued a valid search warrant from U.S. law enforcement agencies.