When I was a couple of months shy of turning twenty, I first lost my innocent belief that I could trust my government. I was young and pretty pissed at the world and almost everything in it. My mother used to call me an Angry Young Man after an movement in England at the time. But I also was confident that I could trust the government. The Federal government.
America was changing rapidly and the Feds were one of the changers. In 1954, then President Eisenhower sent in the 101st Airborne Division to force integration of schools in Little Rock Arkansas. The courts were working to make black Americans almost equal to white Americans. I had – I think we all had – a feeling that the government was on my side.
And, then, in 1960, the Soviets shot down one of our planes. They said it was a spy plane. Now, this was only twenty years after the US Secretary of State said Gentlemen don't read other Gentlemen's mail. and it was obviously not a spy plane because we didn't have spy planes; we were the good guys. We were in a cold war, true, but only because the otherside was Godless and evil.
Some surrogate for the president – not the president, because, as it turned out, the president didn't want to be on record telling a lie – said that it was a weather plane that had strayed off course. We believed him for about three days. Then it became overwhelmingly obvious that we were lying and the Soviets were telling the truth1.
Then it sort of dawned on me, dawned on us. The government was lying. Not lying to the Soviets… just us. The Soviets knew it was a spy plane: we had been flying these planes over the Soviet Union for a couple of years when this happened, always over areas where we wanted information, they had been tyring to shoot these planes down for years, now they had the plane and all its gear, and they had the pilot and he was talking.
As I type this, it still rocks me. It is still incredulous. I think of Obama running on transparency and I think of how disappointed I have been that he hasn't governed with that transparency. How easy it is to run on giving up power and how hard it must be to actually give up that power once someone gets it. I can see why the government hates WikiLeaks and it reaffirms my love for it – them.
1 Because I looked this up in Wikipedia, I now know that there is some question abvout whether the Ruskis actually shot the U2 Spy plane down or it managed to fall out of the sky on its own.