Monday, June 10, 2013

The Face of America, Old and New

Hey Lindsey, the hippies won't let us go to war again. What should we do?

John McCain and Lindsey Graham, who've never met a Sunday talk show they didn't like, do like massive surveillance and endless war. Yes, this is old America, the one we've got to come to grips with and remold and rework into a new America worth living in.

Glenn's nutty theory is that power corrupts and Obama has proven that more than Bush.

The face of new America, surprisingly, is Glenn Greenwald, a gay man who had to leave the States because his partner, a Brazilian, wasn't allowed to stay under current immigration laws that protect heterosexual spouses, though that's an adjacent point. Where Greenwald principally comes from is as a constitutional lawyer who has been waging a battle against gross illegality in the secret operations of the surveillance state at least since I began reading his blog, Undiscovered Territory, in 2005. He's been consistent in his determination that America has been losing its constitutional compass for a while now. Greenwald may have left the building, but he is far from leaving the fight, as we're now seeing.

He was trusted by Edward Snowden, a defense contractor for the NSA, to go through his documents that he had uncovered through his work and choose which to release and which to withhold. Glenn Greenwald is not a loose cannon in the way, say, John McCain is, who flies off to Syria to promote entry in the war and ends up hanging out with extortionists and kidnappers with links to terrorist groups. When it comes to trust, I'd trust Glenn Greenwald.

Hope and change is one thing, but power's a fucking bitch.

When Barack Obama decided not to prosecute -- or at the very least put through a truth and reconciliation process -- any of the Bush administration figures who engaged in or enabled the regime of torture, rendition, and indiscriminate humiliation and abuse that was so prevalent back in the Bush years, he offered a number of vague and absurd excuses about "moving forward." Now, I realize that, more than anything, Obama did so to maintain presidential prerogatives.

No, I'm not suggesting that Obama wants to torture, but he just didn't want to empty the presidential toolbox of any available resources. By now, I'm afraid, I'm long past being able to accept Barack Obama's transgressions, whether it's his drone-strike policy or his intimidation of whistleblowers and journalists or his "acquiescence" in furthering the unconstitutional surveillance state.

Although all of this is far from funny, I'd like to paraphrase grifter Sarah Palin and ask, "Hey Barack, how's that whistleblower war workin' out for ya?"

The caption has it right: NSA whistleblower, not traitor. Is this a sea change?

I can't for the life of me understand why Edward Snowden did what he did. No, not that he blew the whistle on the enormity of the NSA domestic spying operation, but that he revealed who he was and departed America to protect himself and his wife (Update: I think I meant girlfriend). I don't know that I could have done it.

He did though, and I'd hazard that he did it to say, "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore." That iconic line spoken so many years ago by actor James Mason in the movie "Network" rings as true today as it ever did.

What Edward Snowden did was reckless and heroic. What John McCain and others of his ilk do is reckless and destructive. We need a sea change, and we're not going to get it from Lindsey Graham or Richard Haas, or James Clapper, or Barack Obama.

Bradley Manning's mistake was giving his documents to Julian Assange, not Glenn Greenwald.

You know what Americans do? In the case of Bradley Manning, they take a naive, frightened, well-intentioned soldier and lock him, without charges, in a cell, stripped of his clothing and without even a blanket, for months on end. That's what Americans do to Americans. Is that the America you love? It's not mine, either.

Check your watch. Okay, we've got eight years. Is it enough time to fuck up America?

No, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney weren't the first administration to abuse power. Nixon was no slouch, and many would say Abraham Lincoln crossed the line with his suspension of habeas corpus during the Civil War. But in cahoots with a freaked out Congress, Bush and Cheney ran roughshod over the Constitution and it'll be a hard road to travel restoring what we've lost.

Conservatives rush to defend the NSA. Uh, who hates us for our freedom?

I wish I could say we're at a tipping point, and maybe we are. It's often hard to see where the major markers are in any major transition. But the world of sloppy heroes like Bradly Manning, and deliberate, careful heroes like Edward Snowden and Glenn Greenwald looks a lot more like the country I've lived in most of my life. It's ironic that our new heroes are in exile or in jail and our old wielders of power are in Congress or gated homes in Dallas, Texas, McClean, Virgina, or 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. But that's where we are today.

There's another shoe to drop, and to see it I'll be watching Glenn Greenwald, not John McCain. The first gentleman is vital, the second is fossilized, and as Joe Biden would say, literally.

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