Monday, January 30, 2012

The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers

What an incredible and incredibly important documentary. This is what patriotism looks like: being guided by a profound responsibility for doing what’s right, and then doing it, despite great personal risk. Certainly Daniel Ellsberg could have taken the high ground by walking away from his job at the Pentagon after realizing the Nixon administration was lying to the American public about the horror in Vietnam. But he stayed long enough to leak reams of documents, and his actions helped end the war, although it took awhile.

We’re a little slow on the uptake, I guess. Yet I feel hopeful for our times. Sometimes. The Occupy movement is still in place. A good percentage of Americans seem to be pushing back against industrial food. I see evidence of locally owned business support. There is outrage about the treatment of workers in China and elsewhere who are making our stuff. Even talk of an Apple boycott… wow. Just a few weeks ago the word Apple was accompanied by the singing of angels.

I’m still worried, though. By worried I mean terrified. I was just reading about the invasive Burmese pythons now eating up to 99% of the raccoons, deer, opossums, and bobcats in the Everglades. There may be hundreds of thousands by now, after (notes one article) Hurricane Andrew blew the lid off pet shops in the early 1990s. I saw picture after picture of these massive snakes, swallowing everything whole – there’s a photo of one that swallowed an alligator and burst in half. The fear is that they’ll skip Florida and colonize the entire South, grazing southern Ohio. And who knows what climate change does to that equation.

Perfect symbol for America today. These individuals and organizations have gotten so big and hungry they will gorge until they self-destruct. My liberal friends are furious at corporations, and with good reason. I am too. They’re not just self-destructing – they’re taking us with them. Here in Youngstown they want to frack beneath Mill Creek Park, the very treasure of our community.

But it’s not just corporations. Our government is in on it, too: misusing power, leading us along with misdirection and euphemism. Someone told me today “I’m not interested in politics.” I completely understand, and I might have said the same thing at his age. But what Ellsberg’s story shows is one person walking into enlightenment, and the way that changes everything. Some may argue that it's wrong to leak government secrets. I say that depends. If the government is deceiving us, we should know. If, one by one, we're being swallowed whole by the machinery of war or profit, I say we should know.

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