I’ve never been a privacy freak. A tax freak, yes. I take a realistic view of the world so I’m willing to contribute an annual sawbuck for smooth and unpotholed highways. And maybe another 20-30 dollars a year so the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine, Coast Guard and Alabama National Guard can protect me from those who would kill me with glee.
But privacy – I guess I’ve been weak on it because my life is legally blameless. Besides a few transactions with friends dealing with our different assessments of NFL football teams, I have little to hide. My phone conversations, too, are totally innocent except for my constant deprecation of a cousin who I lent 25 bucks to thirty years ago – and who I still malign to our mutual relatives. When he pays me I’ll shut up.
So, my quarrel with government doesn’t focus on privacy. But I understand the sensitivity of those who detest the idea of Big Brother poking around in their banking transactions, phone records, and email. They decry the violation of privacy even if their internet searches involve homemade nuclear bomb instructions. I understand their concern and I’m quick to point that strangely some federal, state, and municipal solons are on their side of the privacy war. (And by the way, so is that bribe-besotted Defender of Freedom – Kofi Annan – who just lectured President Bush on “democratic idealsâ€.) There’s libraries of poorly written, word-wobbly legislation that keeps healers from seeing our medical records and even prevents spouses from acting for each other: “Hello, I’m Mr. Roberts acting on behalf of Mrs. Roberts: would you transfer her IRA assets from Fund A to Fund B?â€ Then proudly I pass the birthday, social security number, and maiden name test. It’s OK, success! Victory!. . . until a chilly voice says, “OK, what’s the serial number on the engine block of her 1985 Buick and if you know that, what’s the address of the Museum of Rock and Roll History i Belgrade, Yugoslavia?â€
Privacy! There’s a price for everything. Even free range chickens need fences. But the government’s role in shielding our private lives was vividly demonstrated in my neighborhood pharmacy. Big sign:
“OUT OF RESPECT FOR
THE PRIVACY OF OUR
PLEASE STAND BACK A
IS IN PROGRESS.
See, it’s a law. Does that say it all or what? My pharmacist assures me that he doesn’t have time to think up such jokes.
What is this? A defense against infectious diseases or are the Feds protecting my reputation – pushing the neighbors back out of hearing range so they won’t know I contracted several disreputable social diseases? See, the government DOES value your privacy.