Tomorrow I’ll be watching from my residential perch in Fort Vancouver – the cradle of a Europeanized Pacific Northwest – one of the nation’s top fireworks displays celebrating yet another Fourth of July. Today, as the enclave prepares for the welcoming of tens of thousands of celebrants, I ponder the meaning of freedom… and how my disgruntled mood when assessing our true lack of privacy will contrast with that of most picnickers waving the symbolic red-white-and-blue. And I will question whether in the US we tend to define truth as that which is heralded by our guardians in Washington.
For one and a half centuries we have considered “In God We Trust” as our national motto, its constitutionality recently challenged in court by atheist activists who wish to have it removed from our currency. To me, it’s a totally unnecessary argument between theist and atheist groups since we could all accept the meaning of god as that of truth, and be forever at peace with each other.
High liturgy in the brainwashing of the American psyche has been the ritual for well over a decade as our government under the misguided leadership of George W. Bush gave its enemies the epithet of terrorists, instilling in us – the citizenry – wholesale fear. And tagging along with that fear came a de facto surrender of rights and liberties with the enactment of The Patriot Act, and the auto-proclamation by the US government, both Legislative and Executive branches, in intent if not explicitly as its mission, “government as being the guardian of our liberty and the global defender of democracy, to be trusted in all its actions as protector of our safety and freedoms.” This is the message that has echoed throughout the land and has now become an article of faith for the resounding majority of Americans, not just the archetype Joe SixPack.
But it is this trust we have, this love of truth, which hopefully will bring us to the realization that Justice should not have artificial national borders, but be universal, and that our government, regardless which of the twin-parties is in charge, represents first and foremost special interests which are often at odds with personal freedoms, human rights, equitable social justice and world peace. Needed transparency in government has been denied to us… presumably “for our own protection,” so when people such as Julian Assage, Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden make their appearance on the world stage, the defense mechanism in our bureaucratic government leadership goes from a state of lethargy to one of menacing hysteria as the dirty linen is put on display for everyone to see.
To the vocal defenders of American hegemony in the world, whether in roles of leadership (political, military and economic) or just plugged-in conservatives of the Right Borg Collective, these three characters are despicable traitors, spies, haters of America, or just disgruntled individuals with a personal agenda. Others, few in number to be sure, have already tagged them as heroes.
I consider them neither villain nor heroes, at least for now; only welcomed messengers of information that we citizens needed to get. Benefitting from such information, we could hardly call them villains… but labeling them heroes may be premature, and we might be wise to let the canonization process run through before we accept them into freedom’s sainthood-fold.
Bradley Manning’s fate as a member of the US military has already been cast, and his deemed anti-patriotic leaks will deal a high price as the Pentagon’s stinking millipede of generals and admirals shows the world the true color of its species, Bellicosa americana. He may be considered a peace-peer by activist, and Nobel Laureate, Mairead Corrigan, but to the picnicker Joe SixPack that I will be seeing tomorrow throughout this national historic site, Manning is simply a traitor… and his name might as well be Mud.
As for Edward Snowden, wherever he is granted political asylum, his fate has also been cast. If he expected his disclosures to provide the opportunity for a much-needed public debate on Americans’ rights and privacy… that might turn out to be superlative naïveté for someone with presumed inroads as to how the intelligence community functions in these United States of America. Domestically, nothing is going to change; the only hope being an unlikely major effort, Watergate-style, by the many other entities-countries (EU, Germany, Japan, South Korea, and the list goes on) which have been bugged by the NSA (National Security Agency). However, no matter their clamored wounded dignity, a superficial, less-than-contrite apology from the US will do; and John Kerry is already preparing the ground, giving this spying on friends and foe an air of triviality… a game nations play just to keep the international community entertained.
Under the guise of fighting global terrorism, Americans have allowed their government to create a convoluted, multi-billion dollar intelligence network probably not much more effective in fighting terrorism than the Keystone Cops of silent films, yet holding Americans hostage to lack of privacy and the exercise of their freedoms. Although claiming success in the prevention of “dozens” of terrorist plots… we would place our bets in that such claims are pure farce. In fact, to keep their credibility with the public, they have to resort to entrapments of easy emotional prey, such as our local version here in Portland, Oregon, where a young man (then 19), Mohamed Osman Mohamud, a naturalized US citizen from Somalia, was set up (I suspect) by the FBI to plot a bombing during the Christmas tree lighting ceremony (November 26, 2010). Five months ago Mohamud was convicted by a federal jury in the District of Oregon; however, a blatant case of entrapment such as this, if one follows the details, is unlikely to withstand appeal… unless, of course, Americans continue being fed the specter of terrorism.
Under the war cry that it’s America’s moral duty to fight terrorism anywhere on the globe, the horrific amorality of an unjust foreign policy triggers conflict and unnecessary wars anywhere and everywhere Washington Power sees fit… the tenant at the White House just another collaborator in the empire’s crimes from the moment he’s sworn in and takes on the dual role of “president of the United States and leader of the free world.” Julian Assage and Edward Snowden will need all the legal help they can get in their flight from the gilded cage (Snowden) and the tentacles of Washington (Assage). I can’t think of better legal representation than that of a team headed by human rights’ Spanish activist jurist, Baltasar Garzón… a man who has dared challenge the world by advocating that justice should not stop at any national borders, proving his legal skills in the prosecution of crimes perpetrated by South American dictators (Chile’s Pinochet and the Argentine generals).
We, Americans, are constantly being reminded of how lucky we are to live in the land of the free protected by a sacrosanct Bill of Rights. And, as we flutter in our gilded cage, our wings spreading and flapping, we are made to feel part of a fantasy-freedom camp; that is, as long as our fluttering does not endanger the power held by our masters: the few, the powerful, the predatory elite.
On this 2013 Fourth of July, perhaps we should consider amending our national motto, from “In God We Trust” to “In God We Trust, In Government We Must Not.”
Ben Tanosborn is a syndicated columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Ben’s website: http://www.tanoborn.com/