I recently returned from an eagerly anticipated trip to Washington, D.C. to visit my daughter in college. In my 53 years, I had never been east of St. Louis; seeing snow fall for the first time and experiencing the immense pride I felt at my daughter’s path was quite overwhelming. It was, by any measure, the trip of a lifetime.
Before my journey, I purchased “Pay Any Price” by reporter James Risen. I’ll spare you the extended summary, but to say it was eye-opening is an extraordinary understatement. Coincidentally, with my daughter as my date, I finally saw a film I’ve been anxious to see, Laura Poitras’ “Citizen Four”. The film documents the early stages of former NSA contractor Edward Snowden’s release to the media of the disturbing revelations that our government is not only illegally spying on us, but their successful attempts to subterfuge the Constitution and commit felonies have become commonplace.
What’s most disturbing to me is this question: how did we get here? How did a nation that took down President Richard Nixon for covering up a simple burglary, become so willing to ignore it’s government committing capital crimes?
I am far from a conspiracy theorist, and frankly look upon those who are with a healthy dose of cynicism. I’d like to think I’m a realist and a patriot. Visiting the nation’s capital and drinking in the history and tangible power in the air there, one can’t help but become intoxicated by the surreal nature of the city. I found myself both excited and humbled by it. As the son of a liberal democrat, a Captain in the USMC who fought and killed in two wars (WWII and Korea), I am always mindful of his enduring sense of propriety, sensitivity, and realism. God forbid he be alive to witness the tragedy that is Fox News and the Tea Party.
I am a patriot and as such, I am forty miles north of outraged at the institutional apathy that has affected my country. The prison-industrial complex, the grotesque economic class disparity, homelessness, the military-industrial complex…all of it remnants not only of Ronald Reagan’s mean-spirited social and economic policies, but conveniently reinforced by the collective fear after 9/11 and the opportunistic security apparatus that has emerged in the wake of that attack. Risen deftly describes the meteoric rise of the “homeland security-complex” and the resultant trend towards abrogation of basic rights.
Attempts by whistleblowers such as Snowden and former CIA Officer John Kiriakou to expose the illegal behavior is met with swift and oppressive indictments from the very agency that is charged with enforcing these laws, the Department of Justice. See “Citizen Four”. Look into Snowden’s eyes and listen to his voice. The man is a hero and will ultimately be recognized as such despite the machinations of security oligarchies whose very investment portfolio’s are threatened by the light of the truth.
We’ve lost our way. I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s when Walter Cronkite delivered the truth and people held their government accountable. We live in the age of pseudo-“news” and the proliferation of a lazy and relatively uneducated electorate simply atwitter over their Palin-like hero’s spouting ignorant, knee-jerk reactions to world affairs that fits very nicely within their lazy world view.
I don’t know what to do. Personally, I’m going to educate myself more and express myself more here in this forum. I’m also going to start a dialogue with my elected representatives and demand, albeit somewhat naively, that they do the right thing and set their own interests to the side and act in the interests of the truth and justice.
Eventually, I’d like to find a career with an NGO or non-profit that fights the good fight.
If you’re reading this I encourage you to look into your own soul, read Risen’s book…watch Poitras’ film…and ask yourself if civic inaction is still an option.