If you think he's a hero, you're probably on the right wing or the left wing. Both groups are highly suspicious of government power for different reasons.
If you think that Snowden is a traitor you're probably in the middle. You may be concerned about governmental overreach but you resent someone who takes the law into his own hands.
Both sides have a point and both sides miss the point. Snowden is neither a traitor nor a hero. He's an embarrassment, clearly, as his antics in Russia show, serving up softball questions for his host tyrant to knock halfway to Kiev.
But the larger point is that what Snowden should be, in a representative democracy, is unnecessary.
What Snowden did? That's John Boehner's job, that's Barack Obama's job. We have, once again, been let down by our elected leaders.
When a democracy is working properly, politicians protect the people. The job of our elected representatives isn't to persecute the whistle-blowers. It is to be the whistle-blowers.
Cops will always overreach. Their job is to catch the bad guys. Any constitutional restraints imposed on that mission will be resented, skirted and eventually, flouted. Even with the best of intentions "the authorities" will exceed their lawful mandates--and their intentions aren't always the best.
Our elected leaders are supposed to ride herd on those fiefdoms. We need them to do that. We need to be able to trust them. Or one unelected guy takes it on himself to save us from the people we put into power in the first place.
What kind of government is it that makes us rely on a dorky, wannabe reality star hacker with a thumb drive and an airline ticket to expose the slime hiding behind truth, justice, and the American Way?
A bad government. A spineless government. A government we need to demand a lot more from.
It is the job of our elected leaders to protect us from abuse from unelected cops and spies. That takes courage in the face of real enemies. But courage is in short supply in the political class. Instead our politicians are generally complacent and often complicit in crimes against the people committed in the name of protecting the people.
And it's not like the secrecy and conspiracies work for long, anyway. Watergate, the Pentagon Papers, The FBI dogging Martin Luther King--it all comes out sooner rather than later.
I am glad to know the dirty deeds Snowden exposed. Glad but not surprised. When I heard the news about the NSA metadata spying program I felt like a guy who knows his wife is throwing him a surprise birthday party and has to rehearse his "shocked face" so as not to disappoint the guests. I think we all kind of assumed the NSA and the CIA and the FBI had access to everything and weren't shy about grabbing it with both hands.
But now, thanks to a morally ambiguous dude who's currently hiding behind the rusty gates of what's left of the Iron Curtain, we know for sure that the NSA is spying on everything and everybody.
So, what's the point of this circular exercise in obvious revelation? How do we make better use of that information than the NSA did with the information it got by spying on us?