Back in 2001, just after 9/11, Bill Maher got himself in quite a bit of hot water when he remarked on his television program, Politically Incorrect, that the fellows who flew planes into buildings were NOT cowards.
On Politically Incorrect's September 17 show, Maher's guest Dinesh D'Souza disputed Bush's label, saying the terrorists were warriors. Maher agreed, and according to a transcript replied "We have been the cowards, lobbing cruise missiles from 2,000 miles away. That's cowardly. Staying in the airplane when it hits the building, say what you want about it, it's not cowardly".
Maher wasn't defending the men who committed these acts; he was merely pointing out that it takes a lot of guts and fortitude for an individual to be willing to give up his life for a cause or philosophy he believes in.
I too believe that the men responsible for the carnage on 9/11 acted courageously. Though I neither agree with nor condone the beliefs that led them to that point and I mourn the innocent lives that they slaughtered as a result of their actions, I can still not brand them cowards.
Whether or not you agree with the actions of Bradley Manning or Edward Snowden (among others), these two young men showed a courage of conviction that few of us will ever match. For Snowden, in particular, he willingly gave up a comfortable middle class lifestyle because his conscience wouldn't allow him not to be the whistleblower that he has become. His actions have made him a marked man.
As you all should know by now, I do not view Edward Snowden as a traitor. In fact, the word that comes to my mind is patriot. Snowden saw wrongdoing on a massive scale and, unlike most of us, he refused to look the other way. He could have easily continued on with his cushy life -- like so many of his fellow NSA-contracted intelligence analysts. But his courage of conviction would not allow it.
Americans should think about his actions long and hard on a day like today. We celebrate our independence from the English crown because our forefathers (and foremothers) had the courage of conviction to fight for the birth of this new nation. They fought against tyranny and for democracy.
The way I see it, Edward Snowden has done the same thing.