Edward Snowden is a traitor. A traitor to a political system shouting its ideals from the rooftops while trampling them under its feet – a system constructed from hypocrisy, selfishness and elitism, and shielded under a facade of glorious rhetoric and cherry-picked history. I am in no way privy to the thought processes used by Snowden to justify his theft of those records, or his motivation for exposing them to the public, yet, when viewed from every angle there appears no material gain in this for any person of sound mind and body. The entire episode reeks of personal sacrifice in the face of a concerted effort by all agencies of the United States Government to portray them otherwise.

To condemn Snowden for swinging wide a door and exposing a multitude of truths where everything from subtle misrepresentations to brazen obfuscations were the order of the day, is an act of pettiness and spite unbecoming the leaders of a, supposedly, democratic and progressive nation. No amount of staged indignation, or the shedding of crocodile tears, or overblown predictions of disaster, are capable of deflecting the reality that representatives, who asked for and were given the people’s trust, covertly and deliberately deceived them. Their attempts at posturing and pathetic claims about doing nothing illegal - because they quietly made it legal - do little more than show the face of fear and guilt to a world awash in the constant and obsessive propagandizing of American national superiority.

Snowden did not follow orders and there are those who believe he should pay the ultimate price for his disloyalty. If such is the case than I suppose we must retroactively absolve and apologize to those we executed at Nuremberg for simply following orders. Is “my country right or wrong” now the law? Is morality now divorced from legality? In the eyes of government, is citizenship now about being a mindless automaton, incapable of making value judgments or acting to serve the needs of the many when faced by the wishes of those special few, who have the right to refuse answers to our questions.

In the technology age each of us is but the sum of our information, and to know more about our lives than we know ourselves is to own us. To listen in on our deepest conversations, and the conversations of those who we are closest to - as they speak about us - encapsulates our lives… and to record and accumulate our fears, desires, and beliefs is to construct a montage of our humanity based on fleeting moments in time. This construction, however formidable, undeniable, and damning is a lie that masquerades as truth – simply evidence that what we say to our most trusted confidants, regardless of how momentary and spontaneous, is potentially a threat that can change our lives. Information may not be truth but it is power.

What the Snowdens of the world understand is that democracy is fragile. For many generations we have touted the strength of our freedoms and hidden the reality that democracy is anathema to human nature. Massive columns and stonewalls do not buttress freedom. Freedom is an idea, a belief, one which no accumulation of institutions however staid and physical will protect if the idea is lost or subverted. Freedom is how we created democracies, and equality is why we created them, because without either we have no more security than animals in the forest, and to break these tenuous links means we lose it all. Unfortunately, this is becoming far too easy to accomplish in a world overwhelmed with communication media controlled by people creatively schooled in the process of building “us” vs. “them” conflicts… all in an effort to fortify their positions and convince citizens they require “special” powers to protect our way of life.

Equality is the weak link in the freedom chain. With minds designed to exist in a world of dozens we are surrounded by billions. Human beings evolved over millennia in societies of small, hierarchical, family groups ruled by alpha-adults seeking to replicate and preserve their genetic material. All of us are driven to achieve a recognition of our superiority as part of our genetic programing. It’s built-in over millions of years and was a necessary factor for survival when facing the competition in a primitive world. These same predispositions drive us today and are why, even though we mouth words like equality and brotherhood, we strive to prove we are special and carry dreams of being above and beyond the rest. Civilization is but a few thousand years old by comparison and real democratic principles have only existed for a scant few hundred years. The need to dominate and leave a legacy is part of us, and when exercised in larger society it manifests as the accumulation of power, and power corrupts – it is one of the true realities of human life and it is universal and unassailable. No one is immune.

Allowing the exercise of power in an arena where leaders can isolate and detach themselves from responsibility, through unbridled secrecy, is to jeopardize all facets of democracy. It allows leaders to stand on a stage and claim to protect us while taking away the very rights they claim to protect. To ignore this truth is to put at risk generations of hard won societal evolution. We are taught to have faith in the strength of our political institutions, to believe that they can withstand the weaknesses of the people we place in their charge and by believing this, we risk losing everything. All decisions must be made in the full light of day.

Democracy is an aberration that exists in conflict with our deepest feelings. It takes every ounce of our education and intelligence to overcome this conflict. As a result, leaders have exploited this tenuous process for hundreds of generations by creating “us” and “them” divides and claiming to be our protection against evil aggressors. In return they have demanded special powers and the right to avoid responsibility for their actions… and by acquiescing we are constantly giving away what they are promising to protect.

Democracy arose from experience. As complex and fragile as democracy may be all other systems more easily fall prey to the charismatic psychopath seeking self-aggrandizement and demagoguery. Every other form of government considers us pawns in a game of elites. Only a system where every individual is constitutionally equal to every other individual provides the security that allows each of us to experience freedom, and only real democracy has that capability. It is a fact so obvious that we believe it beyond dispute and, yet, this complacency has left us believing that the basic fundamentals of our system are solid and unyielding. We trust our democratic institutions because we have been taught they are “enshrined”, and in this we are wrong. We are their only protection and by giving away our ability to hear all of the facts and demand answers to all of our questions, we are giving away our right to be free. Politicians may simply fall prey to a belief in the specialness that we confer upon them, and when combined with a presumed access to superior information, making decisions that affect us becomes accepted as their natural right – but that doesn’t overrule our right to judge for ourselves. Edward Snowden may be a traitor to governments but he’s a hero to the people they represent and that is a prime illustration of why our system is in jeopardy.