Andrew Bacevich has an interesting editorial, “Are Manning and Snowden patriots? That depends on what we do next.” I find Bacevich too much of a statist though I often thinks he shows wisdom when probing US foreign policy. Others may disagree with his analysis of US power. But on the day that Bradley Manning has been sentenced to thirty-five years in prison, it is interesting to consider his personal character along with that of Snowden and others.
Even Conservatives who think Manning was right to reveal the kind of things that were going on in Iraq, and that Snowden is a hero for exposing the NSA, have to admit that those men can hardly be called personal “conservatives” in any real sense. Manning’s homosexual proclivities or Snowden’s live-in girlfriend rule them both out, if nothing else [addendum: when I wrote this, Manning had not yet made his sickening hormone “therapy” request].
That’s not the only area where one notices that people who resist what they see as encroaching enslavement of the American people are hardly the same people you necessarily want your children to emulate. One can go to Youtube.com and search for checkpoint refusal and related terms to see a bunch of young punks ruining a police officer’s day. Sometimes the stop is odious enough that you won’t care, but other times it just seems rude on the part of the refuser.
Thus the recent joke: Why did the libertarian chicken cross the road?
Here’s the deal: we shouldn’t be surprised that such people are out on the edges resisting (or sometimes provoking) authorities in the name of liberty.
I know this from personal experience. I was stopped in banana republic fashion in Illinois for the suspicious behavior of Driving At 3AM In A Car That Reveals I Cannot Afford An Attorney. I had finished an overnight shift, servicing portapotties, and was headed home in the vehicle that, shall we say, my wife does not drive. A sheriff’s car passed me and then whipped around in a tight 180 and followed me back to the interstate with its headlights filling my rear view mirror. One unique feature of my car was a lack of cruise control so I tried to be careful as I could to hold it at the speed limit and ignore the glare from behind. He stopped me with flashing lights just before I entered the on-ramp. The Sheriff Deputy or whatever he was came up and told me I had been weaving. Total lie.
But I was too broke to even have a Smartphone to record the incident. I handed over my “papers” to prove I was legitimate, spoke to him more-or-less respectfully. And I kept my opinion of his moral character, his parasitic relationship to the economy, and his status as a criminal operator to myself. He sent me home in peace.
Why did I do that?
Because he had five hostages, that’s why.
I have to work every day to keep my four children clothed, fed, and educated. My wife is depending on me to bring revenue into the household. That is how we live. I don’t have time to spend in jail. I couldn’t afford to lose a day’s work, let alone to pay bail. Hiring a decent lawyer is completely out of the question.
So I comply. I say “sir,” to blue-dressed, badged bandits.
I hate the contracting noose that is the current US civil government as much as anyone, but I can’t afford to refuse to identify myself and throw the mantra, “Am I being detained?” into the next patrolman’s face. I submit. I get meek.
Conservatives should not be surprised at all that the people who visibly push back at state power are people without children or family, people who are young and don’t have any dependents. Perhaps they will even be people who tend to be rude and obnoxious.
That doesn’t mean they are wrong on the issue in question. That doesn’t mean they aren’t performing a helpful task for the rest of us.