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What a veteran might have said about the NSA, privacy and freedom

Writer and New Orleans native Eleanor Keller (photo by Jason Kruppa)

Eleanor Keller

When I was a very young child, I would sometimes be awakened in the night by the sound of my father screaming.  Sometimes it was a long, loud moan. At other times, it sounded like he was frantically yelling at someone.

After he left for work one morning, I asked my mother, “Who was Daddy yelling at last night?”  She explained that he “was having a bad dream.”

His nightmares didn’t happen frequently, but they did occur often enough to make me wonder about them as I got older.  By the time I was a teenager, I demanded a fuller explanation from my mom.

“He’s dreaming about the war,” was all she would tell me.

Through careful eavesdropping over the years on adult conversations about World War II, I learned that my dad had  been awarded the Purple Heart after being badly wounded. It wounded my own heart to learn that he couldn’t get home for his own father’s funeral, because he was still fighting that war.

Even though my dad was an active member of his VFW Post 5852, and we lived only two doors from the VFW Home, I never heard him talk about the war. He never watched war movies or TV shows.

I never understood his personal blackout of all things reminiscent of WWII ... until my own personal vendetta with Hurricane Katrina. You don’t need to revisit in pictures the horrors that are burned into your brain. And everyone referred to the aftermath of Katrina as a war zone. So, I finally got it; but by that time, my dad was gone.

Daddy would probably have supported the World War II Museum in spirit, but I doubt he would ever have set foot in it. He revisited the war often enough in his dreams.

When I see the pile of crazy that our country has become, I’m sad for my father -- especially the business with the National Security Agency and Edward Snowden, a former NSA contractor who leaked documents to the world about the agency's widespread surveillance programs. I’m glad Daddy isn’t around to see it.

My father was an intensely private man. Although I don’t know if he would have gone so far as to cheer for Snowden, I think he would have appreciated what the man is trying to accomplish. I believe he would see him as a whistleblower (not traitor), surrendering his life so the world could know the truth about government officials and organizations that are chipping away at our privacy and freedoms faster than any terrorist groups ever could.

I am angry that my dad fought so hard against a fascist threat overseas, only to find it 70 years later right in our midst.  Angry and appalled ... and disgusted.

If he were here today, I know what he would say. Daddy would tell me that the real question isn’t what the government should or will do about Edward Snowden. The real question is what are we going to do about what Snowden is telling us ... about our government, the NSA, our privacy and our freedom.

Not just the privacy of those who might be up to something sinister, but the privacy of ordinary people doing ordinary things and living ordinary lives.

My dad was a patriotic man who taught us respect for the flag and our country. I don't think that the country he fought for 70 years ago exists any more.

I think, if he were around today, he would ask these questions: Why are we angry at the whistleblowers? Why do we think it’s OK to sit in front of our laptops and TV sets and watch them hunted to ground? They are trying to tell us about what we are losing.

It’s not just about someone listening in on our phone calls or reading our emails. It’s not about most of us having nothing to hide.

It’s  about what your dad or granddad or great-granddad fought for, and, if they were lucky, came home to enjoy and share with us.

And the hope that we, in turn, would do whatever we could to keep it and pass it on to our children.

Writer Eleanor Keller writes about New Orleans for NolaVie.