Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The Triumph of Culture Over Politics: Edward Snowden and American Independence

The Triumph of Culture Over Politics: Edward Snowden and American Independence

Put another way, it’s when Power offends our cultural freedoms - not our political liberty - that we rise up against it.

Why else have both the Left and the Right in our time sat relatively silent as our rights to due process, privacy, and free speech have been removed by such legislation as the Patriot Act and the NDAA, and yet become very vociferous over our right to smoke weed (on the Left) or own guns without restriction (on the Right)? The answer, at least in part, is that smoking and/or guns are part of the culture for many Americans, so government overreach into those areas actually feels like a personal infringement. In contrast, removing your right to due process doesn’t feel like anything until you need due process, and invading your privacy doesn’t feel like anything if you don’t know that it is even happening.

All of which brings me to Edward Snowden and why there is still hope for America.

Edward Snowden’s revelations have altered American political discourse by changing the everyday American experience of sending an email or a making phone call from one of privately communicating with a loved to one of sharing one’s life with the State. In reality, Mr. Snowden has not told us anything new about the massively invasive power that government has assumed for itself since (at least) 2001. (There are myriad accessible articles about the Patriot Act, NDAA etc. and their implementation that anyone could have read any time in the last decade.) In fact, Snowden has done something much more important: he has turned our government’s violation of our political liberties, which most of us know only as words on a document, into a felt violation of our cultural ones, of which we can feel as we go about our lives.