Ralph Dolan: Imagining a conversation between Cheney and Snowden
Ralph Dolan poses for a portrait, Tuesday, in Northampton. SARAH CROSBY Purchase photo reprints »
Edward Snowden, wearing a New England Patriot’s helmet, jumps onto a commuter bus in some undisclosed location in the Third World. For weeks now he’s been trying to avoid the sticky tentacles of the greatest spying organization the world has ever known — the American government. He had delivered a stunning, embarrassing blow to American officials by revealing their newest, most high-tech, top-secret date-collecting operation. No! This special spying operation is not directed toward the enemies of freedom alone but toward all the governments of the world and toward American citizens themselves.
America had become an empire. Empires and black-ops are enthusiastic bed-fellows. The people are ever in an adversarial relationship with the ruling class and dragnet surveillance is the most necessary, most effective way to keep an eye on all the whiners who object to the way things are.
The bus is crowded. Live chickens are fluttering around Snowden’s feet. He plops himself down in the only empty seat beside some character dressed like a bull walrus. He’s curious. For a moment he suspects this may be some other poor sap under cover running from the long, twisted arm of American justice. But he’s worn out, lays his head back and closes his eyes.
The bull walrus speaks softly: “Well! Well! Finally we meet, you lily-livered traitor!”
Snowden is stunned. He squirms away from his accuser. “Dick? Dick Cheney? Is that you?”
“None other,” Cheney snarls. “We’ve been looking for you, kid.”
“But how could you possibly have known that I’d be getting on this bus, Dick? I didn’t know myself until 30 seconds ago. Is it some new tracking devise I’ve never heard of that monitors one’s thinking?”
“No! Dumb luck,” says Cheney with a smirk. I’m vacationing with Kissinger. Thought I’d get down with the little people and see the sights,” says Cheney. “But enough about me. You’re in deep trouble, kid! I could have my swat team swarming all over this bus in 5 minutes.”
Snowden slumps back into his seat and sighs: “Go ahead, I knew that eventually I’d fall into your clutches. I’m ready to die as long as the lies and duplicities of the American government are exposed to the people.”
Cheney growls: “The people, huh! We look upon the American people as a flock of grazing sheep. All we expect of them is to work hard, pay their taxes, go to the mall, watch endless, mindless TV and shut up. But they can get unruly. They need to be watched. They need to be told what’s good for them by people like me and Henry who know best.”
“But that’s not the way it’s supposed to be,” declares Snowden. “What about democracy? What about government ‘by the people, for the people’? The American people need to know what their government is doing in their name.”
“That’s all poppycock,” says Cheney with a snare. “We decide how it’s going to be. We who are superior, who are born to rule, understand that societies must be governed with an iron fist from above. Democracy is for dreamers, misfits and pacifists like you. As an adversary you’re all push-overs, rendered impotent by your high-flown morality. The only real bite you have is mass demonstrations and we make sure those don’t happen — ever. It’s so easy to .. ah .. marginalize you.”
Snowden pauses and then says: “Jesus what a whistle blower. He believed he could save the world by informing the people of the kinds of oppression they were living under. He believed that the people could find a better way of life if they were told the truth.”
“Figured you were some kind of nut job, kid. I see you got a bad case of messiah complex.”
“No,” says Snowden “I’m just an ordinary American trying to do what’s right, trying to start a conversation about terrible abuses of power. From all directions we must guard against tendencies of tyranny.”
Cheney gets up and pushes past his fellow traveler abruptly, hissing: “You idealistic, moral people are so tiresome.” He starts to walk away.
Snowden is shocked. “What about the swat team? Aren’t you going to take me in?”
“No hurry, kid,” says Cheney looking back. “We’ll deal with you at a time and place of our choosing. You can’t escape American retribution forever. But if you decide to play this ‘hide-n-seek’ game on an on, somebody close to you, someone you trust, will surely spill the beans of your exact whereabouts for the bounty we have on you, courtesy of the American taxpayer.” Cheney couldn’t help chuckling at the irony of it all. “Meanwhile, we’ve got this nice little dungeon awaiting you especially designed so that every day you’re going to wish you were dead ... Have a nice day.”
The bus door opens and the bull walrus disappears onto the crowded street. Looking on, a familiar phrase floats through Edward Snowden’s consciousness: “Blessed are those who suffer persecution for righteousness...”
Ralph Dolan lives in Haydenville.