In March of 1971 I lived in Media – well, I had a Media postal address, although really I lived, with Chip’s parents, about a 5 minute drive away. Every Sunday I’d drive into that little town to buy the heavy New York Times, to try to get myself through the day.
Chip was in Vietnam, which is why I was living with his parents and why I needed ways to get myself through a weekend day. If I’d read about the burglary that March I must have blocked it out, as I did a lot of the news that year. He was in Pleiku, which they called “rocket city.”
We were adamantly anti-war. “Cut off a toe!” I said when his name came up for the draft. “Let’s move to Canada!” But we did neither, and so now I admire those people: Bonnie Raines, who cased the office posing as a Swarthmore College student, and her husband John. They had three children, risking everything for their beliefs.
But I’m constantly testing myself on this well-worn issue of freedom versus security. Edward Snowden is a traitor to my mind. But if Bush were president, would I feel the same? And how is what he did different from that burglary?
What was the government’s goal in each case? The FBI: to bring down its enemies (trying to get Martin Luther King to commit suicide, for example). The NSA: national security.
That’s quite a difference. Yes, the NSA has overreached domestically, and what Snowden has brought to light is a good thing. But he was indiscriminate, and I do believe our national security is the worse for it.
If Bush were president, I’d feel the same way. And I’m also grateful that my personal concerns no longer get in the way of paying attention to what’s happening.