Post-Belief Relegation
By R. D. Flavin


I do not believe in truth, I know it. Guessing is a fun hobby, however, exactitude is our laborious reward for resisting deception. Julia Ward Howe wrote “Battle Hymn of the Republic” as a response to the American Civil War and achieved the goal of every writer – outstanding contribution. She was in the right place, at the right time, as was Lincoln. America is struggling to correct the last eight years of the Cheney/Bush administration and Pres. Obama is the right place and at the right time. Truth, God, science, justice, compassion, common sense, and others are marching forth and ...wait for it, freedom is life’s partner. Deception? A lie is a lie, is a lie, buy me a drink, and now that I’ve had a drink, a lie is still a lie. Damn, those grapes of wrath, which are now recommended, seem to cost much more than they used to. Ah, change...
From Flavin's Corner #268, 3-14-09, “Truth is Marching.”

Snowden, Manning, Ellsberg, and Franklin.

     It's been asked if Edward Snowden is the new Bradley Manning. As much as I'd like to answer “no” and suggest old Daniel Ellsberg as a more suitable "X is the new Y," I'm going with really wicked ol' Ben Franklin. The private Hutchinson letters Franklin passed along eventually pushed the corrupt Governor of the Province of Massachusetts Bay from office and considerably inspired Americans to go through with their divorce from Britain. With the Greater Good and the Common Weal at the forefront of our affected cause, some of us take a wee pause with the news that the USA has lied about the extent of its surveillance of private citizens. After Snowden's leakage we're now confronted with a post-belief patriotism which forgives, but never forgets. From here on out any pronouncements of “The Government Lies!” will be relegated to the rear with snippy rejoinders like, “And you're just NOW finding this out?” It's that special sweet and sour spot where old news meets new news and compare headlines. BTW, font does matter...

     We've long held the ignoble truth that all citizens are guilty unless a lawyer gets the judge and jury laughing too much to convict. Hence, comedians never get into trouble (unless, sadly, they're Jewish, African-American, or promote the legalization of marijuana). Sirius-ly, it started with news about Verizon, tainted Google with accusations the next day, and got an immediate Neuman-esque “Quid, Me Anxius Sum?” from James R. Clapper, Director of National Intelligence. In a memo (“DNI Statement on Recent Unauthorized Disclosures of Classified Information”), Clapper wrote “Surveillance programs like this one are consistently subject to safeguards that are designed to strike the appropriate balance between national security interests and civil liberties and privacy concerns.” Reportedly, allegedly, and most likely, the previously undisclosed National Security Agency's PRISM computer system program collects metadata (“data about data”) purportedly to keep us safe from ...”enemies, foreign and domestic.” For now, we're reminded of the first rule of PRISM Fight Club. And, in support of that rule, the PRISM acronym is too top-secret to discuss. I'd guess it would take a “double secret” FOIA to find out if our government saves any money buying surveillance in bulk.

     Now, nowhere in the fine print that I've read does it say we can't blame the message and the messenger, though many traditionally root for the inferior canine. In a land where one can be successfully sued for slander and libel (if statements are proven false), it should come as no surprise that the Uniformed Code of Military Justice allows one to disobey an order if one believes the order to be illegal ...and is able to convince a military court that's it's okay to “Just say no...” It's the letter versus the spirit of the law debate all engage in from time to time. Speeding to get one's pregnant wife to the hospital will still earn a ticket, though a judge may later decide to dismiss or forgo any penalty. All of the whistle-blowers named at the start of this column (Snowden, Manning, Ellsberg, and Franklin) violated laws of confidentiality. Just because no one's cashed in on Salman Rushdie's fatwā doesn't mean some Islamist fundamentalist wacko down the road might not get nostalgic for the Ayatollah Khomeini's religious opinions. Many prominent politicians (both Republicans and Democrats) are building a sound bite pyre for Snowden, though maintaining the metadata collection is good for the anti-terrorism business. And, because this is AMERICA damn-it, there seems to be a great many non-politicians who feel just the opposite, that is, they think of Snowden as a hero and news of the government's mega-surveillance as a Big Brother fiction become doubleplusungood fact. Always the life of the party, Thomas Jefferson wrote in an 1820 letter, “I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power.” Come on, Tom, what do you really think?

     As a lapsed Catholic, on days when I'm not a post-postmodern atheistic humanist, I can speak somewhat to belief, questioning belief, and doing a poor falsetto version of Michael Stipe singing “Losing My Religion.” I'm still a huge fan of Jesus, just not keen on Christ. One does not simply walk into post-belief. Its conscience is guarded by more than just guilt. We survive belief and continue unenchanted, but still in awe of it all. Discovering imperfect America can be disturbing, though such has been taught in public schools (to some degree) since the Civil War. The list of American mistakes and wrongdoings is long and growing of late, yet very few decide they no longer wish to be an American and leave. Hero-worship? Those extra pounds or that drunken rant can be devastating... In post-belief we relegate zealous optimism to the garage next to the boxes of baby clothes. I'm not going to be an apologist for Pres. Obama, he doesn't need one, though it would be personally dishonest of me to claim that I didn't briefly hope for a “change” I could believe in before cynicism once more made it perfectly clear that one man (woman or person) can only accomplish so much before the gears of government seize and require either self-sacrifice or politically compromising WD-40. I saw it happen to Carter, Clinton barely survived his Congressional confrontation, and Pres. Obama has fist-bumped the wall (var. the Hill) on a regular basis since his first inauguration. Being better doesn't always herald victory, of course it helps, yet with great power often comes great restrictions. We turn the other cheek not because we're weak, but because we're strong...

     It's offered that a broken clock is correct twice a day and, with twistory, an extension may be allowed for the paranoid wearers of tin foil hats as since the '60s and the beginnings of the ECHELON Interception System, true privacy may indeed be a thing of past. There's no need to be nervous, might as well relax, as most won't know when they get switched off. We are informed that "Ignorantia juris non excusat," and the USA Patriot Act enacted a month and a half after 9/11 should be referred to by its official designation, the Uniting (and) Strengthening America (by) Providing Appropriate Tools Required (to) Intercept (and) Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001. The truth is out there some place, as it's been right in front of us for almost a dozen years.

     I mean, really, doesn't anyone watch CBS's Person of Interest with Jim Caviezel, Michael Emerson, and (recently) Texas-born and Spanish-Iranian yummy actress, Aahoo Jahansouz “Sarah” Shahi? Remember 1970's bad sci-fi flic, Colossus: The Forbin Project? Readers may have picked up the scary The Invisible Government by David Wise and Thomas B. Ross (Random House, New York, 1964). Orwell followed the goal of futurist allegory – to describe situations and events which have direct correspondence to what's happening now... Let's go with “Spying is the second oldest profession.”

     With the illusion of transparency withdrawn, our dreams of a New Age are relegated to the Oldie stations, and we question not what the listeners listen to, but why? We are a mundane people and, God willing, we'll stay that way.

Still believing in Beatles,

Return to