The character assassination of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden is not surprising; the deflection of the issues he raises is not surprising, either. Yet, let's not take the wrong lesson from this. It does matter who Edward Snowden is, just not in the way we might typically think. Snowden, like all of us, is a complicated, no doubt flawed person. There is a real lesson in keeping to heart that reality while understanding it in terms of what he brought to light.
What happens when you give a few complicated, flawed people unlimited power? Bad things happen.
Rather than turn a flawed man just like us into a hero - though his action was heroic - let's recognize that he's wrong about something. It's not just that the American government was engaged in criminality; it's that this government - like all governments - are run by flawed people, people who have far too much power. It's not enough to hold them accountable and to put people in power who aren't criminals. We need to dismantle the power of a system that demands that we put trust in people who are inherently flawed and which is therefore incredibly dangerous because of the power it wields.
If we all fall short in some ways of being able to earn full trust of each other, can't we at least be fully human without worrying whether our every decision might impact the lives of billions of people? Who Edward Snowden is matters; who each of us is matters. We'd matter a lot more if we didn't abdicate that responsibility to an economic and political system that currently dictates so many of the terms of our lives.
I'd also urge that we not abstract the ideas of Edward Snowden from the man, flaws and all.