Slate has an interesting article on why Edward Snowden is having such a hard time finding another country willing to accept him (short answer: he’s a bad candidate for asylum, legally, and he’s also shown a history of releasing classified information and defying the rule of law by fleeing – admirable character traits, to be sure, but not necessarily the kind of person most government or potential employer would be drawn to. Here’s the bit I found particularly fascinating:
“Snowden has few options left. Any country with an extradition treaty with the United States would probably extradite him—so his efforts to get into Germany or France are pretty pointless. Perhaps, if he reached Cuba or Bolivia, he could stay in one of those countries, in the process giving up the civil liberties that he holds so dear.”
I don’t mean to criticize Snowden or defend the U.S. government. But it sounds like Snowden, who was so disturbed by the PRISM program he chose to break the law and flee the country, is finding the very country he fled to be the one that gives him the best chance at living a free life. This doesn’t mean he was wrong to betray those secrets. I personally see a lot of posturing around the whole PRISM scandal, but also a lot to be concerned about. And at the end of the day, I’m glad he released the information and that we know about the program, even as I suspect I should feel more outraged than me.
But here’s the point: Snowden loved the American ideals he believed in so much, was so disturbed by what he saw, that he broke the law and ran away from America. I could give you the whole Platonic schpiel about how that’s ultimately self-defeating — you can’t respect and love a society and attack its legal underpinnings by acting like the laws don’t apply to you — but even if it is confused on some level, I think Snowden’s act really do express a deep patriotism. Shades of Frodo, actually, the man who loved his society so much he would sacrifice his own place in it to save it, although in this case he’s trying to save it from itself. Which is what makes his current situation so fascinating: he’s finding that the things he valued so much just aren’t available to him in other countries. There are other countries that might take him in, but they hardly have a better track record on civil liberties than the country he was protesting.
If you’re like me and you’re a bit apathetic (at best!) to July 4th, this might be something worth remembering. In many ways, and in spite of the things Snowden rightly tried to draw our attention to, America is still one of the best options for him if he wants to live a free life – even one that now may involve time in jail. That doesn’t have to mean America is perfect, that there isn’t massive room for improvement, like in the areas Snowden called our attention to and others beside. But at some level, it’s still home. And it’s still a good home – one that has imperfect freedom and liberty and equality, but more of that than yous see in many places and a good starting point to build from.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to make several dozen fruit kebabs and these bananas aren’t going to slice themselves. Enjoy your celebrations if you celebrate it, and enjoy your day regardless!