What if you woke after a night of uneasy dreams to find a strange man standing in your bathtub?
Don't be alarmed. The strange man isn't some stark naked psycho. The strange man is fully clothed. Polite, even, efficient, neat and obviously well-educated.
He has a camera pointed at you. And the camera is rolling.
So what would you do?
"Hey, don't mind me," says the filmmaker, gesturing for you to keep on with your normal routine. "I'm just here to protect you in case some criminals try to attack when you're at your most vulnerable."
Would you shrug and say you always figured there was a filmmaker in your bathtub the whole time anyway?
Would you say you had nothing to hide, and seek to make the filmmaker welcome in your bathtub, perhaps even trot downstairs to fetch him an anisette biscotti and a nice hot cup of morning joe?
Or would you just stand there, confused American that you are, unable to process the cameraman-in-your-bathtub thing, frantically searching for a reason not to have a violent confrontation (because who wants confrontations when at your most vulnerable)?
And then it hits you:
He's right! He's just protecting you and other Americans from evil.
The human mind works this way. When confounded, we seek refuge in recognizable patterns. And for so many of us, trained for generations to studiously avoid confrontation, it solves so many problems, doesn't it?
So rather than become upset and risk an actual conflict, you just go along, because that's how we roll these days in America.
You bow politely, exit the bathroom, sigh a deep sigh, and begin repeating:
"I really have nothing to hide. I really have nothing to hide. I really ..."
Whether you have something to hide or not isn't my concern. Although I do hope when that you read this column that you have the decency to be fully clothed. But sadly, I have no control over that, either.
This might sound subversive -- and given what's going on in our country, it is absolutely subversive -- but what you do in your bathroom is your business.
What you do on the Internet, or on the telephone, should be your business, too.
Not my business.
Most definitely not the National Security Agency's business.
And certainly not U.S. Rep. Peter King's business, either.
The horrifying prospect of a bathtub visit by King, the New York big-government pro-NSA Republican, came to me after reading a story on Politico.com about his appearance on MSNBC's "Morning Joe."
King was whining about the cranky libertarian Sen. Rand Paul, another Republican who has dared criticize the American security state, particularly the NSA's habit of spying on Americans for their own good.
Paul is considering a presidential run in 2016, and apparently so is King, although we need a big-government Republican from New York in the White House about as much as we need a big-government Democrat from Chicago.
I'm from Chicago, where there are hives of cameras watching all of us on the streets, and where big-government Democrats and Republicans get along just fine. I call this bipartisan arrangement The Combine. And the rest of us are expected to doff our caps, fall to our knees and thank them for their benevolence.
Basically, King said that Paul had no business in Congress, was stoking "paranoia" in America, and had dared to compare NSA boss James Clapper (who lied to Congress about spying) to the master leaker, the wanted Edward Snowden.
"When Rand Paul is comparing Gen. Clapper to Snowden, saying Clapper belongs in jail with Snowden, talking about how all phone calls are being listened to, trying to create this paranoia among Americans that the NSA is spying on everyone, the fact is he has not been able to cite one abuse by the NSA."
According to King, the Kentucky Republican "creates this illusion" of spying in an attempt to play off Americans' fear in an "offensive" way.
But it isn't an illusion of spying. It is spying.
Spying on the American people.
Guys like King don't have any problem with it. Good for you, Peter. And I hereby promise never to show up fully clothed in your bathtub with a camera.
But I have a problem with the whole business of government spying on us for our own good. By objecting, am I subversive, perhaps even traitorous?
These days, many Americans say that they assume the government is listening to their conversations. And some don't merely accept it, they long for it, convinced that it will protect them.
What King, President Barack Obama and the rest of the big-government crowd ignore is a rather strange and now radical idea:
That the power of our government derives from the people -- that we don't work for them, they work for us.
For years now, even before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, we've been led away from this idea.
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