Quality time

What to make of the news that one fifth of all Americans think they've been spied on by the U.S. government? Is this paranoid or pragmatic? And why do only fifty percent of Americans, according to the latest polls, think there's something wrong with spying on U.S. citizens?

I think I've figured out the answer. In a way, it's almost comforting to think that the U.S. government is evesdropping on us; at least it means they're paying attention. It's rare that we, as individual citizens, get much in terms of care and attention from our government. Given that 45 million Americans don't have health insurance, including 20 million people who are regularly employed, no wonder we're hoping someone will take notice of us. One percent of Americans, but 5 percent of all outpatient doctor visitors, are hypochondriacs. More and more Americans use the emergency room in place of a regular doctor, either because they don't have one or can't get adequate care or information from the HMO-managed one they have. When we do have something that really physically wrong with us, it's likely to go undiagnosed.

If we had the kind of government that actually knew how to listen and not just how to attack, maybe there could be some silver lining to this whole sordid spying business. Instead of just looking for code words and criticisms, they'd hear some of the concerns that are really bothering us. The knee aching up again. No health care for our partners or our kids. Gun shots waking us up at night. But they don't have to sneak and break the law to hear these concerns. We'd be happy to tell them directly. If only they'd stop sneaking around and evesdropping on us and instead just learn to listen.

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