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War on the Outside, War on the Inside

This – the innocence and the green and the trust and the beauty – this is what I am fighting to save.

If my brain was asked to pick a favorite hobby, I suspect it would choose “analysis.”

I can’t blame it, really – holding up this topic here, that topic there, examining it thoroughly for insights, comparing and contrasting it with other topics….sounds like what I do when I go to thrift stores, only my brain is comparing ideas rather than coffee cups or vintage jeans.

But then sometimes my brain gets stumped. Stymied. It runs into an analytical dead end in a place where encountering a dead end is distinctly unexpected.

And then it just stops. (I live for these moments, by the way).

Such a moment occurred a few nights ago when I finally watched “Snowden,” one of two films about, well, Edward Snowden. [As soon as I recover from that experience, I am eager to watch documentary filmmaker Laura Poitros’ version of the same, Citizenfour.”]

Perhaps I should back up and describe my state of mind leading up to my viewing of “Snowden.” 

I have been immersed in documentaries (books and films, mostly) about the worldwide plight of endangered species, global warming, the toxification of our planet and how little (it often seems) any of us can really do about it.

To be honest, I think I had unwittingly jumped out of the frying pan of our recent political election and the unfolding nuclear missile concerns that followed and into the fire of global ecosystem destruction.

The night I watched “Snowden,” my boyfriend and I had taken our first spring jaunt down to the beach, walking as we love to do in the waves, commenting on birds and shells and clouds and sunsets and just basically doing our best to temporarily shake off our stultifying identities as homo sapiens and simply “be” for a short while.

While watching “Snowden” later that evening, it occurred to me that all my worries over nuclear weapons were for nothing. Why worry about getting bombed on the outside when we are already getting bombed on the inside each and every day via the internet-driven spy infrastructure set up by people who know things about computers I will never even know are available for the knowing?

We already have full ability to destroy each other, if that is what we truly decide we want to do. Nuclear weapons just offer additional fresh options, but after watching Snowden’s story, I now know they are not really adding anything new.

At this point, it is not about newness anymore. It is about more. More power. More intel. More security and protection against…..oh, wait, whom are we protecting ourselves against, again?

Each other.

All of this – the spying, the hacking, the intel, the troops, the drones, the nukes – it is all to protect you from me, and me from you.

And for those of us who step to the forefront and ask why, or question whether we need “more” when we already have so much, or bring to light decisions made by the few that affect the many and ask why the many can’t at least be included in the conversation, we tend to reward them with a lifetime of vilification, because now we can point to that person and say, “Them! This is why we need more. This is who we need to protect you (ahem, us) from.”

I apologize if all this seems a bit grim. Because there is good news here.

Specifically, I actually felt better, calmer, more peaceful and centered after watching “Snowden” then before.

While viewing his story, much of my world-centric angst quietly dissipated. Part of the reason was that my analysis-loving brain got overloaded and went into “standby” mode, providing the rest of me with a lovely night of much-needed restful and dream-free sleep.

The rest of the reason was simply this: it is all already around us.

By that I mean – the paranoia, the drive for “more,” the ambition to build a bigger, thicker, stronger wall inside and outside and everywhere… is already here. And I can’t do a thing to change that. I can’t arm wrestle it all to the ground and overpower it on everyone’s behalf. I can’t make it go away.

In the meantime, the question for “more” will continue, because it is possible, and because we can. And we tend to be a species that can’t resist what is possible, whether it happens to be beneficial or not.

But while watching “Snowden,” I realized there is something I can do. I can go within. I can seek to stop the war within. I can seek to give all – those standing on every side – a benefit of a doubt – the same benefit of a doubt I am so eager to receive myself.

I can stop demonizing or deifying. I can resist the temptation to continually categorize and re-categorize myself and others as bad, good or undecided. I can realize we are all essentially undecided. We are all playing it – all of life and our own individual journey – by ear.

Who amongst us would say, “Oh yes, I am a very bad person,” or “Oh yes, I am a very good person.” Well, maybe some of us would, but most of us would likely say, “I am a mostly good person who has some bad thoughts and occasionally does not-good (or even bad) things.”

Or I could just say what Edward Snowden said in one of his interviews with The Guardian:

….you can’t wait around for someone else to act. I had been looking for leaders, but I realised that leadership is about being the first to act.

Edward Snowden acted in the way he could act, because he knows the internet and how it works and what it can do and its usefulness for good, bad and everything in between.

Me, on the other hand – I can’t even figure out how to get my iPhone and my MacBook to freely talk with one another, despite the fact that I’m told this is what they are both already set up, willing and eager to do.

So my way of acting will clearly be different. But I can still act.

I can act by ceasing to worry about the ones creating the nuclear bombs and the ones creating the internet spy sites and instead concentrate on ending the war within me.

In this way, I hope, I will be standing up as a fellow leader to give our fragile planet at least a fighting daily chance to survive our presence here.

Today’s Takeaway: Have you seen either of the movies about Edward Snowden’s life to date? What were your thoughts? If you had found yourself in his position, with his skill set and knowing what he knew, what do you think you would have chosen to do? What do you think you could contribute now to a world where, in the future, perhaps there will be more peace and less war?

War on the Outside, War on the Inside

Shannon Cutts

Freelance writer. Author. Cockatiel, redfoot tortoise & box turtle mama.

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APA Reference
Cutts, S. (2017). War on the Outside, War on the Inside. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 28, 2020, from


Last updated: 10 May 2017
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