What is the emotional and political nerve that Snowden’s actions have hit?
Writing for Common Dreams, Norman Solomon tried to answer this question: “The huge political impacts of the leaked NSA documents account for just part of the explanation. Snowden’s choice was ultimately personal. He decided to take big risks on behalf of big truths. …Few of us may be in a position to have such enormous impacts by opting for courage over fear and truth over secrecy—but we know that we could be doing more, taking more risks for good reasons—if only we were willing, if only fear of reprisals and other consequences didn’t clear the way for the bandwagon of the military-industrial-surveillance state.”
Referring to the portrait and the accompanying quote by Snowden, Solomon wrote that the pairing, “conveys a deep mix of idealism, vulnerability and determination.”
In an interview with the editors of Common Dreams about the portrait, Shetterly explained what he tries to do when he paints people who have taken a personal and political risk such as Snowden has: "Whistleblowers are immediately attacked, demeaned, marginalized by power. My effort is to show them not as fanatics but deeply humane people who are sacrificing for the rest of us. My effort is to both single them out for their courage but also show that they are part of a continuum and a community of social justice—that they cannot be marginalized and ostracized."
My last task was to scratch a quote from Snowden into the surface of the portrait. As anyone who has listened to him knows, Snowden is articulate, measured, thoughtful and philosophically accurate about the ideas that support democracy and that impelled him to act. After considering many possible quotes, I chose one of the simplest and most obvious, one which the NSA with all of its super computers, eavesdropping equipment, and secrecy could not begin to understand:
"...the public needs to know the kinds of things a government does in its name, or the "consent of the governed" is meaningless…. The consent of the governed is not consent if it is not informed." —Edward Snowden
While reviewing material for this post, I was impressed with the website "Americans Who Tell The Truth" where Robert Shetterly’s Americans Who Tell the Truth portraits and narratives highlight citizens who courageously address issues of social, environmental, and economic fairness.
It is most impressive to see his prolific work cover the subject material so thoroughly. My task became one of selecting among so many compelling portraits... my final selections below. I encourage a visit to the website to see more.