Too Many Secrets
Both stories brought to mind the countless troubles trying to keep too many secrets under wraps can set in motion.
On Nov. 22, 2013 the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy was observed. For the school children of 1963 that sucker punch was stunning in a way nothing has been since.
The President's Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy, better known as the Warren Commission, published its report on Sept. 24, 1964: Lee Harvey Oswald was found to have been a lone wolf assassin. Since he was put down by a self-styled executioner two days after Kennedy fell, the commission’s investigators never heard Oswald's testimony.
Much of how those investigators operated and too much of what they found was kept in the dark. Unfortunately, the cloaked-in-secrecy aftermath of the JFK assassination created a void that attracted speculation. Some aspects of the Warren Commission’s findings were puzzling. For instance, its famous “single bullet theory” had one projectile traveling circuitously, almost magically, through two victims.
In 1965 gunmen murdered Malcolm X in an auditorium in Manhattan. A sniper killed Martin Luther King as he stood on a motel balcony in Memphis in 1968. Two months after that Robert F. Kennedy was gunned down in a Los Angeles hotel. Unfortunately, the official stories on those three shootings were widely disbelieved, too. Everything baby boomers have seen since this tumult has been tinted by the cynicism it spawned.
More scrutiny of how those assassination inquiries were conducted might have led to different conclusions. Moreover, even if casting more sunlight on those probes had yielded no significant changes in the bottom lines, millions of citizens would surely have felt more comfortable about the good faith of the processes.
It took revelations that spoke of bad faith to steer us away from blithely tolerating so much secrecy. Among them were: the My Lai Massacre horrors; the publishing of the Pentagon Papers; the Watergate Scandal hearings; the Iran-Contra Scandal hearings; the bogus justification for invading Iraq.
Over the years such revelations changed America. Perhaps led by the baby boomers we have become a people who expect their government to lie. We also expect to be subjected to a steady stream of lies every day from advertising for mammoth corporations -- companies that, like our government, routinely spy on us.
It’s no wonder that today there are those who see fugitive whistleblower Edward Snowden as a hero. He revealed to many of them that the Patriot Act of the Bush administration's era wasn't so much about promoting patriotism. It was about spying. Some people who read the news regularly already knew that.
Nonetheless, Snowden’s stunt put him on the celebrity map. By simultaneously leaking classified information about how far-flung our government’s surveillance has been and going on the lam, Snowden instantly became the darling of at least two large groups: 1. Government haters, in general. 2. Folks who like pouring pop culture into their tall glasses of politics, like a soft drink mixer.
To a third group, Snowden’s weak imitation of some previous brave whistleblowers has been at least as annoying as it has been edifying. Still, Snowden does deserve plenty of credit for launching new discussions of how much spying, by any entity, we the people should countenance.
Which, right away, leads straight to one galling conclusion: to some extent, spying is here to stay. If you use credit cards, cell phones and the Internet you're going to be tracked. Plus, the practice of security cameras and phone cameras recording images of everything is only going to increase.
So, rather than bellyaching about officials watching us, what we should be doing is demanding to watch the watchers. We should be calling for sunlight into the operation of governments at all levels. We should insist on knowing the sources of all the money flowing into elections and lawmaking. We should be able to see through corporate veils that hide malfeasance, too.
We can also try to outlaw some kinds of information gathering. Maybe that will work, but it’s more important to accept that privacy, in its old fashioned sense, is a horse that left the barn years ago. Wise up, rather than dwelling on protecting an individual's privacy -- secrets, again -- society's more important need is for openness where it counts most.
Truth is more important than privacy. Sunlight should be a big political issue of this election year, maybe the biggest. But it probably won't be, because the people financing political campaigns don't want it to be.
Single Bullet Theory?
Great name for a band.
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