The 1960s TV spy spoof, GET SMART, the brainchild of Mel Brooks and Buck Henry, turns out to have been prophetic. Now playing the role of bumbling, grumbling Secret Agent 86 Maxwell Smart is none other than our President, Barack Obama.
According to a recent New York Times front-page story, the President always travels with a portable Zone of Secrecy, a kind of temporary tent which protects his communications from listening ears or watching eyes. Nothing could be more reminiscent of GET SMART's Cone of Silence, a transparent shield which would descend whenever Agent Smart, then played to the hilt by Don Adams, wished to discuss secret matters with The Chief, head of CONTROL, our CIA-style agency continually battling the forces of KAOS, Cold War Soviet-style bad guys who were out to subjugate the world.
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Nearly fifty years after this immensely-popular spoof, it seems that reality has imitated television: America's spying mania has become a presidential mantra, while privacy rights and Constitutional protections of those rights go down the federal drain. Our understandable national paranoia about terrorism has taken bizarre and counter-productive twists and turns. Whistle blowers have dared to shed the light of reason on abusive data-collection techniques which review untold millions of harmless personal phone calls, emails, tweets, posts, and similar free expressions protected by the Bill of Rights.
Meanwhile, the very real threats facing us are often either ignored or shoved under the governmental rug. Every week we learn of deadly weapons smuggled on-board airplanes; of deranged shooters using readily-available assault weapons to kill and maim innocent men, women, and children; of major corruption among our military and civilian protectors; and of massive infighting among those federal agencies charged with our protection. All of this occurs while we seem to have a Congress determined to self-destruct and take us with it, and an Administration which cares little about our rights.
Of course, some elements of GET SMART have not quite come to pass -- the Evil Empire, as Ronald Reagan termed the Soviet Union, is long gone; and the cell phone has proven much more efficient than the show's Shoe Phone. Still, at least one bit of dialog from GET SMART has also proven prophetic: The Chief asks one of his agents, "How can we believe a man who would sell out his friends?" The agent replies, "Who else are you supposed to sell out? You can't sell out your enemies." In the light of that interchange, perhaps America needs to sort out the identities of those friends and those enemies, the sooner the better. Here in the brave new 21st Century, we do not seem to know the difference.
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