Tuesday, December 24, 2013


One knows not what effect writing cogently about contemporary crises will have on our society, but if a butterfly flapping its wings in the Amazon can spawn a hurricane (typhoon)in the Southwest Pacific, then perhaps these ruminations can have a salutary effect on the body politic. Which is a fancy Ivy League way of saying: I hope this makes a difference, however slight.

So towards that end, my nominee for my Person of the Year is Edward Snowden. Because for the last few decades, the huge boulder rolling downhill, crushing human rights, civil liberties, and democracy, carries the combined weight of the government and near government institutions whose raison d'etre is to bleed us of our money and to keep us afraid, unthinking, and panicky, in order to keep us from questioning why everything we were taught in grade school about the Revolutionary War, freedom, and the Bill of Rights, is as discardable as used Kleenex. Most everyone has heard of Eisenhower's farewell speech in which he inveighed against the dangers of the Military Industrial Complex- and that was at the end of the 1950's, the decade which modern "Conservatives" revere as the apex of American culture and all that was good and right with our country. However, until the end of the 20th century and beginning of the 21st, that complex really hadn't taken over all branches of our government in anywhere near the extent that has become, sadly, unremarkable as we near the end of 2013. So when it's revealed that the NSA is constructing a vast building costing billions out in the nether regions of the Rocky Mountains, built just to store all of the secrets and data being stolen in plain sight from our private lives, ("metadata" it is called, as if that makes any difference linguistically from mere "data" which is the plural of "datum") it barely stirs a yawn-- not even among the fruitcake Tea Party activists who howl at the moon when a man of African ancestry tries to make sure their children won't die for lack of a doctor, the NRA warriors who scream bloody murder if their banana clips have to hold fewer than 30 rounds of high velocity ammunition, and barely a peep from the people who used to storm the barricades at the evil machinations of "The Man."

So here we are at the end of 2013, when we reveal our innermost selves via Text or on Twitter and Facebook, but still cling to a few vestiges of privacy, and anything good that happened this year in the area of Civil Liberties, anything that attempted to stem the flood waters pouring through and over our leaky dams of the Bill of Rights- you know, the Fourth Amendment and such- came because of one person with a conscience: Edward Snowden. The rogue former NSA contractor who decided that what was happening was just too much. Kind of like a modern day real-life Norma Rae, who rallied the textile workers in North Carolina in the Sally Field film an eon ago.

So, Edward: here's to you, my Person of the Year. Perhaps a Senator, Congressman, or journalist besides the unmatched Glenn Greenwald will take up your torch and keep the flame of liberty from being snuffed out. Now there's a metaphor to end this reflection. Peace on Earth, good will towards all.