Within hours of the Dennis Hastert news breaking, I texted two people I know who have met him on multiple occasions for their thoughts. Both stated that he did not Seem Like the Type but that the evidence of what he did is substantial and he is now persona non grata. This was a relief to hear, as it bothers me when people leap to "I know him and he would never do such a thing" defenses. What scandals like this remind But us is that whether our friends are nobodies like us or powerful elected officials, you never know them as well as you think they do. I sincerely believe that a lot of Hastert's friends, even family, are shocked by these revelations. They're shocked because you never suspect someone you know so well of harboring this kind of secret. But that's just it; everybody has secrets. Maybe, hopefully, not everyone has a secret as vile as having molested a minor. But show me somebody who has never done anything of which they are ashamed or was against the law and I will show you a liar.
It's not a defense of his actions in any way, shape, or form. Instead it is a reminder that humans are remarkably talented at hiding parts of themselves from one another. Even our spouses, our parents, our children, our best friends…no matter how well we think we know them, we never know them fully. What we've seen lately, this wave of men being outed for secret (and in some cases lawbreaking) lifestyles, is a result of our shrinking privacy. I don't mean that in the "The gub'mint's stealin' my emails!" sense, but rather a recognition that the ability to hide some secret aspect of one's life is becoming more difficult. If some pastor wants to have sex with other men on the side and ends up, as people do these days, using the internet to facilitate that, it's not a matter of if but of when it will become public knowledge.
I used to fancy myself someone who was a good judge of character, the kind of person who said he knew right away what a person is like. Over time and with experience I learned how silly that is. There are people in this world who are married for years and still don't know everything about one another, people who sit next to one another in the same office for forty years with no idea that one of them is swindling money from the company and the other hosts bi-weekly Craigslist anonymous orgy meetup in that charming little ranch house. So "I know Bob and he wouldn't do that" is one of the most dangerous conclusions a person can jump to. We don't know what the people we interact with and know are capable of. We've seen the cliche often enough, the reporter interviewing the neighbor of the recently unmasked serial killer saying "But he seemed like such a nice boy…"
Life is full of surprises; finding out what the people we know are hiding from us and from the rest of the world is the least pleasant type.