Today’s headlines: Good news and bad news

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…”

When he wrote these words, Charles Dickens was describing conditions in England and France in 1789, but he could have been describing the state of America on June 26, 2013.

First, the good news: SCOTUS and the end of DOMA. Yay!

Now, the bad news: Next to the Supreme Court stories on every newspage in America today is the bizarre, shameful, continuously unfolding drama of Edward Snowden, the former NSA analyst who decided to go public with a whole lot of ultra-sensitive, Top Secret American files. Elsewhere, the court martial of PFC Bradley Manning for an identical crime is entering its third week. This double breach of national security is unprecedented in our country’s 238-year history, and to call it a dangerous precedent is rather like calling the Mississippi River a puddle.

Manning is locked safely away at the moment, but Snowden is currently camped out in the geographically gray area known as the Arriving Passengers’ Lounge at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo¬†Airport. Vladimir Putin has just announced that he and his country will do nothing to help the USA in this matter, and several other nations (China, Ecuador, Iceland) have echoed Putin’s deliberately provocative stance. The world is thumbing its collective nose at us, and the world’s most dangerous man is being shielded from extradition and prosecution by the very people who seek to obtain the information he has in his 4 famous laptop computers. This information will expose untold numbers of American “agents in place” around the world, not to mention the many, many foreign nationals who assist them. In short, it threatens the security, the safety, and the very lives of approximately 330 million people.

I’m one of those people, and I am outraged. The supporters of marriage equality are dancing in the streets today, as well they should. Meanwhile, their future existence as Americans is being seriously compromised.

I’m an old Left-Winger from way back. I believe in full disclosure and freedom of expression and power to the people. I’ve never in my life voted for a Republican, nor will I ever do so. But I’m not an idiot–I know that the freedom America enjoys comes with a price, and that price is constant vigilance against the people who would love nothing more than to take our freedom away from us.

In a world of international face-offs, political unrest, and terrorism, America has very few tenuous safeguards to keep us intact, and many of those safeguards are explicitly delineated in Edward Snowden’s files. Now, to save his own worthless skin, this “idealist” has a priceless bargaining chip–the United States of America–and he’s clearly prepared to sell it to the highest bidder, if he hasn’t already done so. The appeals from President Obama, Hillary Clinton, and a raft of others are falling on deaf ears. No, not deaf: defiant. Delighted. Overjoyed. As far as the enemies of democracy are concerned, Edward Snowden is Santa Claus and PFC Manning is his Chief Elf.

Let’s all remember that as we celebrate the good news from Washington today. In a military courtroom in Maryland and an airport lounge on the other side of the world, events are unfolding that could make this triumph–and every other privilege we enjoy in America–a thing of the past.

Where’s Charles Dickens when we need him? No one else could possibly describe it.