We live in an America where dissidents of China (like Chen Guangcheng) get special visas from the U.S. State Department and special posts at universities such as New York University. However, dissidents such as Edward Snowden get their passports revoked.
Our government can lie to the world about Iraq, spray the people of Vietnam with Agent Orange and drop nuclear bombs on Japanese women and children. It can hold fathers and sons for no crime in Guantanamo. Yet, Americans are to believe that it can be trusted with all our phone and email records.
Our government can give aid to Pakistan who willingly sheltered bin Laden, a murderer of thousands of New Yorkers. It can prosecute Bradley Manning for a life sentence but let off U.S. soldiers responsible for Abu Ghraib with mild punishments. Our government can negotiate with torturers of prisoners and shelterers of terrorists, yet it cannot find within itself to reconcile with a fellow American such as Snowden who must instead seek refuge in Russia or Venezuela.
Our lawmakers, including the president, talk about their Christian faith often. Yet, the president's administration is doing to Snowden and his parents what the president wouldn't want done to his children if they, in a moment of rash idealism, happened to leak a government secret; our justice system has no forgiveness for near-teenagers such as Bradley Manning.
What the American government expects of Americans today is obsequiousness, not boldness; compliance, not confrontation; blind faith, not verification. Despite an abundant displays of incompetence in plain sight: Iraq, Benghazi, IRS, WikiLeaks -- we must trust our government with the records of all our phone calls and emails, we must never expose its dirty secrets, and we must believe contrary to evidence that it will suitably prosecute its own operatives at the IRS, CIA or the military for their crimes.
There were many in the Stasi of erstwhile East Germany who genuinely believed how important and patriotic spying on their fellow citizens was. Values, reason, and inquiry were absent, and so was an imagination that a better way is possible. Are we behaving like Americans or East Germans? We cannot imagine people boarding planes without naked photographs or comprehensive groping; we cannot imagine sitting safely in our offices without sending all our call records to the government; we cannot imagine winning a war without torturing and unethical incarceration; we need Pakistani support for Afghanistan so we give them aid and sell them warplanes; we cannot displease Russia so we send Syrians to a chemical weapons abattoir; we guzzle a lot of oil so we say precious little about human rights in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia; the Chinese finance our debts so we do not speak against the apartheid and genocide in Tibet. These compromises in our values show that we lack the imagination (like the Stasi) of a different way; we lack the conviction of a truly exceptional nation. While we play hide and seek with our cherished values of freedom in the aforementioned big issues, we exhibit unique, unquestioned and effective resolve to pursue and prosecute relatively harmless American idealists who dare challenge our government's excesses: Ellsberg, Manning, and Snowden. We have shown far more vigorous commitment to the Espionage Act and our extradition treaties than to due process rights, habeas corpus, freedom of the press, the UN Conventions Against Torture and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
America's tanks are her prejudiced prosecutors and her Tiananmen Square is ironically in her courtrooms. Just because no one is being mowed down in plain sight does not mean that there isn't a massacre underway.
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