Perplexed Boy To Slyly Smiling Girl: "Why Don't You Just Tell Me What You Mean?"

Next party you attend expect a fascinating array of codes being subtly exchanged between women and women, men and men, and especially between men and women. This whole code thing probably began that day in the Garden when Eve held up that apple, and Adam had to de-code that mystic smile.

Centuries later Henry Stimson, our Secretary of State in 1929, famously said this about diplomatic code-breaking: “Gentlemen do not read other gentlemen’s mail.” Which had a nice ring to it until nations like Germany and Japan started to develop and use elaborate international codes in advance of the wars of the 1930s and 1940s.

Decades later the pendulum has now swung to the opposite extreme, with everyone furiously engaged in code-making and code-breaking. It’s reached the point where many of us have become obsessed about government, government secretes and government surveillance. The politically correct term is “the right to privacy.” The more candid one is simply gut-level fear of what they may find out about me.

Like all democracies we are now privileged — or, depending on how you look at it, burdened — with the inevitable “public conversation.” Without a constitution that gives a president sole authority, and without a congress that knows how to reach a consensus, we are now fated to “converse” endlessly in the halls of government, on the call-in radio stations and on the 24/7 cable newscasts.

One simple thought for all you conversationalists. With better code-breaking we may have avoided disasters like Pearl Harbor and 9/11, just as we achieved victories with better code-breaking like the Battle of Midway and the Normandy Invasion. As they keep saying ever since that day in the Garden: “You gotta break some eggs to make an omelet.”

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