My heroes

In the movie Gandhi, there is a scene where Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and his followers decide to break the salt monopoly. India being a tropical country, salt is critical for food preservation and for daily life (to replace the body salts lost through sweating), and the British government and their flunkies raked in huge profits by controlling the production and sale of salt throughout the country. Literally  no one else was allowed to evaporate water and collect the residue, and one of the first major acts of civil disobedience in the campaign for Indian independence was the 1930 salt march to the sea.

Dharasana Salt FactoryOne day, the Mahatma leads a line of men to non-violently take over a salt plant. They line up in ranks, some eight or ten abreast, and the first row steps up to the gate to ask for salt. The guards, on orders from their British masters, club down the men. The women step forward to carry away the bleeding men to be bandaged, and the next row steps forward. They are beaten, carried off, bandaged. The next row. The next row.  As the men are bandaged, they take their places again at the back of the line, and when their turn comes again, they once more step forward, not to fight, but to simply stand there with their eyes open, letting the guards crack open their skulls for the hideous crime of asking for salt, an interminable line of stubborn men who know they are right and who are willing to put their lives on the line to prove it. In the film, a reporter called Walker (the real life Webb Miller) reports the day with the words, “Whatever moral ascendancy the West once held was lost here today. India is free, for she has taken all that steel and cruelty can give and she has neither cringed nor retreated.”  

I wept when I first saw the movie. I weep every time I see it, and I am weeping as I write this, just thinking of that courage. I’ve always wondered if, when the time comes, I will be able to muster that inner strength to stand up like that, to face down tyranny with such grace and calm determination, to neither cringe nor retreat. I hope so.

But in the meantime, there are men and women stepping forward every day. Some risk their lives, others their reputations and their livelihoods.  They all do it because they know what is right.

Mark KleinOne of those is Mark Klein, a former AT&T engineer who blew the whistle on the secret monitoring system the NSA built within AT&T’s internet switching center. He is now righteously furious at Congress’s recent overthrowing of the FISA Act which required that security agencies get permission for wiretapping.  Yep, now, thanks to your Congressmen and Senators, the feds can listen to your private communications without asking anyone, and the telecoms who enable them are protected from lawsuits, using the logic that “if the President says its okay, it’s legal.”

Shades of Richard Nixon. No, shades of Big Brother. You can read more about it in this article from and in this one, from BoingBoing. But best of all, read Klein’s own words, including his original memo about the spying program, necessary reading for anyone who lives in America.

And here’s a little tidbit that may reveal something about AT&T’s attitude about the whole thing. Ms. Suspicious?  You bet I am, but not about online billing, hon.

So here’s to Mark Klein and brave souls like him. When I spot one, I’m going to mention him or her here. They are important. They are heroes, every one.

Who are your heroes?






Photo  of Mark Klein by hughelectronic (via Flickr), used under Creative Commons license 2.0 (Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike)



  1. I’ve been thinking about this on varying levels all week, and learned something.
    Three heroes (not restricting myself to real people) off the top of my head are my father, Indiana Jones, and John MacClane. All three were at their most heroic when they were beaten down, the world giving them more pressure than anyone could bear … and they continued to continue, dragging forward at a crawl when necessary but never giving in.
    …I think that I might have a habit of doing things the hard way because, if it isn’t super-humanly difficult to perservere and overcome, how do you know that you are doing something amazing? Time for therapy, I think.
    Excellent question….

  2. You know, when I first read this, I thought you meant John McCain, the candidate. Then I realized you really did mean John MacClaine — the protagonist in the Die Hard movies.

    Although John and Indy are fictional, they’re symbolic of the kind of heroism that affects me, too–also, btw, the kind of heroism McCain the candidate seems to have shown in Vietnam when he was a POW. I can admire that about him, even though I don’t support his bid. And before someone jumps up to shout that Barack Obame has never showed that kind of heroism…stop to think what he, as a black man, has been through every day of his life. I can only imagine the kind of pressure the world applied, and yet he overcame and excelled. A different kind of heroism, perhaps, but just as deep.

  3. What a great topic! Don’t you think we’re all heroes for choosing to be here in this time and this place to experience life and allow for the expansion of all that is? For sure, the type of heroism that you’ve mentioned is noteworthy and awe inspiring. But think about the heroic acts that we ALL pull off every day.

    We get out of bed and put on our public faces and literally walk to the edge of the cliff…never knowing if the edge will crumble under our feet. Each and every moment of each and every day has the potential to be our last….and yet, we ‘boldly go’. Why? How?

    Perhaps it’s because no matter what any ‘authority’ (churches, governments, etc) says to the contrary, and no matter how they try to scare and intimidate us, we all have the ‘remembered’ knowledge that this is all an illusion, and nothing can ever truly harm our ‘greater selves’. If this current life ends, it’s only a new beginning.

    I say hats off to ALL of us for choosing to brave our current ‘reality’ every day, for in the experiences that we have there are lessons for all concerned. For those who manage to add working for a cause, or standing up for their beliefs to their trip this time around, I say “You humble me with your strength.” I’m with you, Lisa. When it comes time for my own personal ‘gut check’….I pray for the strength to be courageous and not choose the ‘easy’ way out.

    Btw, I happen to think that John MacClane (who IS real, in MY head…) is about the sexiest man EVER. Not just because he’s brave and smart and very,very MacGyver, but because he looks at life and says “bring it” with that marvelous smirk on his face. Give me an ‘up-yours’ attitude and a wicked sense of humor and I’m lost, every time!

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