My memories of the early 1980s are disquieting in a militaristic way. Dressed up in our deep blue military garb we marched and sang to a shooting range somewhere in the nearby hills. During his last decade in power, the comrade in chief, President Ceausescu became more belligerent, or perhaps just more aware of his imminent violent demise. Each high school suddenly had a faculty member in charge of the periodical shooting training of the senior class. As the leader of the high school communist club I should remember when she appeared in our curriculum. But I don’t. I just remember she was tall and awkward looking and did not have the appropriate degree to teach high school students. Nevertheless she was assigned to our high school and without many questions she became the one leading our marches to the shooting range.
While we were lining up and getting ready to leave the school, the instructor would warm us up, much like a junior comedian warms up the crowed before the main comedian comes on stage, with patriotic songs and slogans. Again, I have neither the smell nor taste of madeleines to associate with those happy moments – happy because we were young and healthy and bathing in the spring sun and were missing Math and Physics and other difficult classes – so I cannot recollect the songs and the slogans, but their gist will never be lost. We, the senior class of that high school located in a Romanian Podunk, we were getting ready to oppose both the Soviets and the Americans, had they chosen to invade us. We were all laughing at the bombastic words. I believe we did not even believe they were words, but some audible icons whose role was to protect us from more cryptic events. The young can sing happily in Ke$ha’s words “We’re gone die young” and the mentally insane can believe high school students who use Kalashnikovs once in a blue moon can meaningfully oppose a military invasion of any type.
Hubris is the flip side of idiocy, and the line between one side and the other is very thin. The US government has tried to walk that line forgetting that it engages in a gymnast’s beam competition though it never prepared for it. Like an overweight drunken former gymnast diva, the National Security Agency hacks in everybody’s computer, and violates any existing rules because once it was the darling of the gymnast world. The glory happened last century and little good will has been built since.
And now, Edward Snowden tells everybody what we all knew, but preferred to deny. The United States does not follow the rule of law it claims it wants to export. It was hubris when the US asked Hong Kong to arrest Snowden for having broken privacy rules in the United States, when the United States broke international privacy rules vis-à-vis China, and the world. It was idiocy to make a badly written request which was inadequate and offered the Chinese a reason to legally postpone its response to the US demand.
Now, one way for the US to become consistent with its demand of punishing Snowden for violating privacy laws would be for the US to stop snooping and spying. At a minimum, if I were Eric Holder, or the NSA’s president, Alexander, I would join forces with Lou Reed and put on a concert against free downloading and free sharing and streaming; against the free-of-charge Internet and ask for everybody to respectfully abide all rules and never rebel, and especially be really conservative even if they want to make music they should stay away from such names as “The Velvet Underground” because it may just put ideas in peoples’ otherwise limited imagination.
Or maybe this is all too shortsighted of me?