Sunday, June 23, 2013

Dear America

Dear USA.

I was born in Columbus, Ohio. I still retain US citizenship, although I have been a dual national with Australian citizenship for more than twenty years now, and I have for some time identified as 'Australian'.

When I was younger, at school, growing up, I learned a good deal of history. Not just American, but history of the world. And I admit that I saw reason to hold the founders of the American nation in high regard. Knowing the times in which they lived, and the difficulties they faced, I felt then -- and now -- that the work and principles of the men and women of the early days of the US were among the most momentous and laudable efforts towards bettering the human condition that history has seen.

For the better part of two hundred years, the US identified itself with ideals such as freedom, equality, opportunity, tolerance and egalitarianism. In the 20th century the US became something special -- not just a country, but a symbol, a promise: a vision that offered hope to a world full of dark, grim, hopeless places.

Today, I read online a note from the government of Hong Kong regarding the movements of Mr Edward Snowden, a US citizen now charged with treason by the US government. I'll copy the note in full:

  The HKSAR Government today (June 23) issued the following statement on Mr Edward Snowden:

     Mr Edward Snowden left Hong Kong today (June 23) on his own accord for a third country through a lawful and normal channel.

     The US Government earlier on made a request to the HKSAR Government for the issue of a provisional warrant of arrest against Mr Snowden. Since the documents provided by the US Government did not fully comply with the legal requirements under Hong Kong law, the HKSAR Government has requested the US Government to provide additional information so that the Department of Justice could consider whether the US Government's request can meet the relevant legal conditions. As the HKSAR Government has yet to have sufficient information to process the request for provisional warrant of arrest, there is no legal basis to restrict Mr Snowden from leaving Hong Kong.

     The HKSAR Government has already informed the US Government of Mr Snowden's departure.

     Meanwhile, the HKSAR Government has formally written to the US Government requesting clarification on earlier reports about the hacking of computer systems in Hong Kong by US government agencies. The HKSAR Government will continue to follow up on the matter so as to protect the legal rights of the people of Hong Kong.
Ends/Sunday, June 23, 2013
Issued at HKT 16:05

 Two things must be said.

Firstly, there was a time in the USA when what Edward Snowden did would have been seen as an act of true heroism: reporting on the widespread abuse of the US constitution by the government which has invaded the privacy of (seemingly!) every US citizen and much of the world through its NSA spying programme. There was a time when people in the USA who spoke up, who exposed corruption and institutionalised wrongdoing were seen as true Americans, not traitors. I am bitterly disappointed to see how deeply times have changed.

Secondly: there was a time when the rest of the world viewed the US with such trust, and in such a good light that a man like Edward Snowden, who openly broadcast state secrets, would  have been returned to the US government at once by any government in the world not actively opposed to American interests. Yet Hong Kong has blandly let Snowden go unmolested, citing a legal technicality. It should be apparent to all, therefore, that the credit and the good name of the United States of America has slipped a long, long way down in the eyes of the rest of the world. 

Bradley Manning is in a military prison for revealing some part of the attitude of the American government to her "friends" and "allies", as well as her enemies. Manning's treatment has been, and continues to be, beyond the pale, and there is no chance he will ever receive anything like a fair and open trial. 

Julian Assange is currently in asylum in Ecuador's embassy to the UK -- Ecuador, a country once staunchly alllied to the US, with a history of looking to America for leadership and protection -- because Sweden will not offer assurances that they won't use charges of sexual misconduct against him as an opportunity to send Mr Assange to the US, where he will assuredly receive the same treatment as Bradley Manning. And of course, the reason the US wants Assange has nothing to do with sexual misconduct, and everything to do with the fact that Mr Assange's Wikileaks programme discomfited the US government by giving voice to people like Bradley Manning, and others.

Now Edward Snowden remains at large, having left Hong Kong while his arrest papers were held up on a legal technicality. I understand his destination is Moscow, but I recall reading that Iceland -- another one-time ally and friend to the USA -- has suggested they would offer him asylum.

Dear America... land of my ancestors, land of Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin and so many others -- how much more will you accept? Your government spies on you, lies to you, gives your lands, your waters and your forests to corporations to destroy, gives your tax money to the same banks and bankers that take your houses and homes, denies you medical care, denies you proper education, denies you even the simple privilege of paid holidays that much of the world takes for granted, and gradually imprisons you, stripping your freedom to travel, your freedom to assemble, your freedom to speak and be heard, and even your simple right to privacy.

How much more will you accept? How long can you keep saying 'yes' to the people who are doing this to you? When will you say 'no'? What will it take? Have you sung those old songs about freedom and liberty so often that the meaning has vanished completely away? 

What will it take to make you stop accepting what is being done to you, and to the world, in your name?

Yes. I know this small screed is meaningless, and will achieve nothing. But I meant what I said at the start of this. I was born an American, and even now, I think the ideals on which the country was so famously founded are the finest yet put forward by humanity. 

It hurts to see them abandoned. Truly: it hurts. 

I know. These are only words, but I am hurt, and words are all that I have.