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American Narcissism


If you see something, say something. Who isn’t familiar with this slogan, trademarked by New York’s Transportation Authority and licensed to Homeland Security for the government’s rule-by-fear campaign?

Whistleblower Edward Snowden saw something, said something, because what he witnessed and participated in was egregious, a crime against constitutional rights. His goal: to spark a public debate about civil liberties.

He has. Americans are questioning if trading privacy for security is an acceptable bargain, although the spy grip on Verizon accounts, social media sites, etc. has never been about safety, but instead contracts and profit.

Snowden’s revelations, brought to us by journalist Glenn Greenwald, reveal much more than the mining of our phone calls and Internet activity, if that weren’t chilling enough. Really, the NSA’s abuse of power appears limitless.  Both Orwellian actions, “offensive cyberwarfare,” launched against other countries, and “domestic cyber-operations,” can be waged at the whim of the president or his cabinet members.

Barack Obama said that an open discussion is “healthy for our democracy.” Yet leadership has debilitated democratic values. So much so that the data gathering, to mine our thoughts, our intellectual property, our intentions, is government breaking and entering–invading our entrance foyers, living rooms, dining rooms, offices, family rooms, bedrooms, bathrooms, attics, basements, and our closets. Feeling us up and down, their fingers probing crevices, folds, and orifices.

I see a prism as reflection, light. Now the word, uppercased, is a violation, thought rape. The new rule is: I think therefore I am… theirs.

Sen. Diane Feinstein, representing Wall St and chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee (check this link and another for a glimpse into lifestyles of the filthy wealthy), weighed in with trademark-able ickiness:

I flew over the World Trade Center going to Senator Lautenberg’s funeral and I thought of those bodies jumping out of that building hitting the canopy. Part of our obligation is keeping America safe.

Calling for the arrest of Greenwald, Peter King, representing Wall St, said, “… this is putting American lives at risk and clearly done to hurt Americans.” King earlier effused that Snowden be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. “This is a matter of extraordinary consequence to American intelligence,” he said.

Oh, my. Really, it’s a matter of our intelligence—this assumption that we’re stupid. But then why wouldn’t they presume this? We’ve allowed them to pass the Patriot Act, the NDAA, SOPA (among others), to lie a path to endless war with concepts like WMD, mushroom clouds, and “fighting them there so we don’t have to fight them here,” along with further fear-inducing and nationalistic rhetoric. Here’s a recent Obama example:

And long after the current messengers of hate have faded from the world’s memory, alongside the brutal despots, deranged madmen, and ruthless demagogues who litter history – the flag of the Unites States will still wave from small-town cemeteries, to national monuments, to distant outposts abroad and that flag will still stand for freedom.


Americans have an image of themselves as rugged individualists.  (But we are in this together, borderless, an ecosystem.) Many who cling to the nonconformist construct have been reduced by 9/11 panic to wave the red, white, and blue and chant “USA! USA! USA! while eying suspiciously anyone who practices Islam or wears head covering that isn’t a baseball cap.

I read about Snowden and see Bradley Manning, another young man who saw something and said something, who hoped to expose the truth about American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He’s being court martialed for his courage.

I look at comments beneath articles to take a pulse, see what people think about Manning. When someone says he endangered US troops, I wonder if the commenter believes the people in the countries we’re destroying are unaware that our military kills defenseless men, women, and children.

Yet here’s what Obama said in March of 2010 to US troops in Afghanistan:

Make no mistake, this fight matters to us…it matters to the Afghan people. Al Qaeda and the violent extremists who you’re fighting against want to destroy. But all of you want to build — and that is something essential about America. They’ve got no respect for human life. You see dignity in every human being. That’s part of what we value as Americans. They want to drive races and regions and religions apart. You want to bring people together and see the world move forward together. They offer fear, in other words, and you offer hope.

That’s a load of American exceptionalism/narcissism.

Meanwhile, not one mainstream media outlet has insisted that our government release Manning, whose military oath includes reporting war crimes. Nor has any mainstream media outlet called for the prosecution of those who green-lighted the spy program. Not one mainstream media outlet has demanded the impeachment of Barack Obama.

Why? Because despite the talk that Snowden’s audacity is provoking, a majority of Americans say the NSA’s program is tolerable.

We are witnessing crimes committed by our government, in our names. If we see something, we should say something. The acquiescence of the masses supports an unaccountable government. The terrorists in DC and on Wall Street are winning. If we allow them to persist, not only will they hijack our thoughts, they also will hold the deeds to our souls.

Missy Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine, and was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in Baltimore She can be reached at

Missy Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in BaltimoreEmail:

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