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Which Is It?
My local paper printed two letters recently on the topic of Edward Snowden. He’s the contractor who blew the whistle on phone snooping by our National Security Agency. The headline for one letter read “Snowden a Traitor”; for the other, “Snowden a Patriot.” Both seem to have been written by liberals, and both were filled with righteous outrage.

Lefties aren’t the only ones divided by this story. On the right, the neocons are crying treason while the libertarians huff about Big Brother. Perhaps the divide isn’t so much political as it is internal. None of us is used to thinking about these issues in quite this way. The right to privacy and the need for security aren’t usually pitted against each other. In fact, they could be viewed as two aspects of the simple human longing to be left alone.

Now, however, they are in conflict. Terrorism isn’t just crime, it’s super crime — crime rising almost to the level of war in its indiscriminate destructiveness. How far are we from the suitcase-sized nuclear bomb? Not far, by some reckonings, and when the Nuclear Age meets the Information Age in that context, security and privacy may be torn apart for good. If one of those bombs goes off, where will the libertarians and defenders of privacy stand then? If the perpetrators are homegrown militiamen like Timothy McVeigh, how will the authoritarian right respond? And what will the anti-terrorists of the left say when the right to privacy finally evaporates completely?

Technology is pushing us toward decisions we are not prepared to make. The capacity to destroy is growing at a frightening rate, our freedom and individuality are shrinking with each new digital breakthrough, and we are left to sort through the consequences using outdated standards of right and wrong. There is nothing in our history or experience that can keep pace with our own ever-expanding inventiveness. How are we expected to make such choices?

I don’t know if Edward Snowden is a traitor or a patriot. I saw a Rob Rogers cartoon last week that called him a “traitriot.” Snowden made his stand, and then he ran away and hid. He was clearly not prepared to make his decision, but he felt he had to make it anyway. Given the direction in which technology is leading us, we may all become traitriots soon.

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Trump supporters are people who know what they believe.
~ JC, Bonny Doon