Thursday, June 13, 2013

“Where were you at that time?”

New Lisbon WI – Nikita Khrushchev, First Secretary of the Communist Party, was denouncing Stalin and his ways in a speech. He ranted about the evils of Stalin’s actions, and how the new regime would not be the same. As he spoke a note was handed to him, passed up from one of his listeners.  It asked “Where were you at that time?” Khrushchev looked around and said “Who wrote that? Please stand up.” No one moved. He waited. Then he said, “Very well, I was then where you are now."
Khrushchev, as First Secretary, did make changes to Russia during his time. The blood bath ended, political enemies were imprisoned rather than executed. Hunger strikes began working; openness became something that was not just a distant dream. Protesters were treated with more leniency. One dissenter went so far as to say that if Khrushchev had lived another ten years after being removed from office, he may have even joined the opposition.
But why did Khrushchev do nothing when Stalin was still alive? How many thousands or even millions would have been saved? He was then where we are now.
We are not in fear of our lives. In America, Edward Snowden has told us that we are all being spied on by our government. Snowden embarked, at the risk of his liberty and even possibly his safety to warn us about the governmental snooping that is taking place. He could have waited around, hoping someone else did it, and then in the end nothing would have gotten done. Nothing ever gets done when we all wait around.
Next to me I have a book entitled Secrets, by Daniel Ellsberg, the man who exposed the Pentagon Papers at the time of Vietnam. Ellsberg did not wait; he acted, although he almost ended up with an over 100 year prison sentence.
Well, Snowden has told us what is happening. When we found out that Nixon had spied on one political opponent he was forced out of office. If the nation had waited around then, nothing would have gotten done.
Our constitution, according to the Supreme Court, guarantees us the right to privacy. According to speeches, media broadcasts, and press releases in recent days, Americans have lost that fundamental right in most cases. America has a choice, of course. They can sit around and hope someone else does something about it; that is a sure way to be certain nothing gets done. Or they could do what has gone on all throughout history, protest peacefully. That too is a right guaranteed by the constitution, but if we do not use to protect our other rights, we may lose that one as well.
Americans now know what is going on; Snowden risked his safety to tell us. In fifty years the history books will talk about this. The question that will be asked by our children will be “Where were you at that time?”

Andrew C. Abbott

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