Today Barack Obama gave a stirring speech before the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, but what could have been a speech reassuring the world that the leviathan of American surveillance isn't smothering them turned into a greatest hits speech. He spoke about ending the "perpetual" war on terror, closing Guantanamo, ending gender inequality, equal rights for the LGBT community, and climate change. But why didn't we feel good about it?
Even the German people, know around the world for their love of Obama, went silent when the balance between privacy and security was brought up. Many of them, no doubt remember what it is like to live in surveillance state. This comes in the wake of German politician Markus Ferber, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's sister party, directly comparing Obama's surveillance programs with those of the Stasi, the vicious Soviet controlled police that terrorized the people of East Berlin.
Twenty-six years and exactly seven days ago, Ronald Reagan stood before the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin and challenged the Soviet Union to tear down the Berlin Wall. The wall represented everything everything Cold-War America imagined it was not: authoritarian, paranoid, influence-hungry, imperial, and unsympathetic to national sovereignty.
John F. Kennedy also declared in the his allegiance with the German people as they stood in between the Soviet Union and the Western World. In 1963 he said,
Two thousand years ago, the proudest boast was civis romanus sum ["I am a Roman citizen"]. Today, in the world of freedom, the proudest boast is "Ich bin ein Berliner!"... All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words "Ich bin ein Berliner!"