What does it mean to take a stand against power? When a solitary individual chooses to take a stand against all the concentrated violence embodied within the State, is this bravery or madness?
In his famous sermon delivered inside the National Cathedral on March 31, 1968, Martin Luther King puts the question like this:
Most people are familiar with that passage from MLK, yet may not remember how the sermon begins:
Anyone who faces power, wide awake, will inevitably come under attack. Those who take a stand will be called traitors, perverts, demons. The bought voices of the sleeping intelligentsia will flow like Brooks through an alpine meadow. And those who are sleeping will one day awake to find themselves in a world without individual rights; a world with neither privacy nor sanctuary; a world without the rule of law.
Edward Snowden had every reason to follow the path of privilege and power, and go with the flow, like the brooks through the meadow. Instead, he has taken a stand, at great risk to his life and liberty. He looked straight into the twisted logic of the dark place (the totalitarian dream of omniscience and unencumbered control of the populace) and chose to follow his conscience through a carefully planned act of civil disobedience.
Let us hope that his brave and selfless act, like the silent stare into the face of power performed by the choreographer Erdem Gunduz inside Taksim Square, inspires others to choose the same path of conscience, and to take a stand against cowardice, expediency and tyranny.
We close with another passage from King’s sermon: