Prometheus Among the Cannibals: A Letter to Edward Snowden

Published on truthout, by Rebecca Solnit, TomDispatch, July 18, 2013.

Dear Edward Snowden, Billions of us, from prime ministers to hackers, are watching a live espionage movie in which you are the protagonist and perhaps the sacrifice. Your way forward is clear to no one, least of all, I’m sure, you.

I fear for you; I think of you with a heavy heart. I imagine hiding you like Anne Frank. I imagine Hollywood movie magic in which a young lookalike would swap places with you and let you flee to safety – if there is any safety in this world of extreme rendition and extrajudicial execution by the government that you and I were born under and that you, until recently, served.  

I fear you may pay, if not with your death, with your life – with a life that can have no conventional outcome anytime soon, if ever. “Truth is coming, and it cannot be stopped,” you told us, and they are trying to stop you instead.

I am moved by your choice of our future over yours, the world over yourself.  You know what few do nowadays: that the self is not the same as self-interest. You are someone who is smart enough, idealistic enough, bold enough to know that living with yourself in a system of utter corruption would destroy that self as an ideal, as something worth being.  Doing what you’ve done, on the other hand, would give you a self you could live with, even if it gave you nowhere to live or no life. Which is to say, you have become a hero.

Pity the country that requires a hero, Bertolt Brecht once remarked, but pity the heroes too. They are the other homeless, the people who don’t fit in.  They are the ones who see the hardest work and do it, and pay the price we charge those who do what we can’t or won’t. If the old stories were about heroes who saved us from others, modern heroes – Nelson Mandela, Cesar Chavez, Rachel Carson, Ella Baker, Martin Luther King, Aung San Suu Kyi – endeavored to save us from ourselves, from our own governments and systems of power.

The rest of us so often sacrifice that self and those ideals to fit in, to be part of a cannibal system, a system that eats souls and defiles truths and serves only power. Or we negotiate quietly to maintain an uneasy distance from it and then go about our own business. Though in my world quite a few of us strike our small blows against empire, you, young man, you were situated where you could run a dagger through the dragon’s eye, and that dragon is writhing in agony now; in that agony it has lost its magic: an arrangement whereby it remains invisible while making the rest of us ever more naked to its glaring eye.

Private Eyes and Public Rights: … //

… What You Love: … //

… Building a Bridge to the Nineteenth Century: … //

… Prometheus and Being Burned: … //

… There were rumblings that you had defected, or would defect, to China or Russia, but you had already defected when we became aware of your existence: you had defected from them to us, using the power you had gained deep within the bowels of their infernal machines to empower us. What will we do with what you’ve taught us? That’s up to us, but for anyone who thinks what you did was not threatening to those in power, just look at how furious, how upset, how naked our emperors now are.

And you, Prometheus, you stole their fire, and you know it. You said:

Being called a traitor by Dick Cheney is the highest honor you can give an American, and the more panicked talk we hear from people like him, [Senator Dianne] Feinstein, and [Congressman Peter] King, the better off we all are. If they had taught a class on how to be the kind of citizen Dick Cheney worries about, I would have finished high school.

Someday you may be regarded as a Mandela of sorts for the information age, or perhaps a John Brown, someone who refused to fit in, to bow down, to make a system work that shouldn’t work, that should explode. And perhaps we’re watching it explode.

The match is sacrificed to start the fire. So maybe, Edward Snowden, you’re a sacrifice.  In the process, you’ve lit a bonfire out of their secrecy and spying, a call to action.

I fear for you, but your gift gives us hope and your courage, an example. Our loyalty should be to our ideals, because they are a threat to the secret system you’ve exposed, because we have to choose between the two. Right now you embody that threat, just as you embody those ideals. For which I am grateful, for which everyone who is not embedded in that system should be grateful.
Love, Rebecca
(full text).

Links:

Go Public — Finally, A Film That Celebrates Public Schools, on AlterNdet/Education (first/copyright truthout), by Peter Drier, July 16, 2013: A new documentary is a welcome antidote to the bleak and misleading message of “Waiting for Superman” and “Won’t Back Down …;

Telecom Companies Implicated in NSA Spying Unite to Lobby Congress on Digital Privacy, on truthout, by Mike Ludwig, July 18, 2013:  The biggest names in telecommunications industry have launched a new lobbying group headed by two Washington insiders to advocate for privacy policies that could affect millions of consumers nationwide …;

Why the U.S. Executive Branch is a Clear and Present Danger to Democracy, on ZNet (first on AlterNet), by Fred Branfman, July 18, 2013.

System-wide Demonization of Whistleblowers, on Dissident Voice, by Kim Petersen, July 18, 2013.

Snowden on Google News-search.

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