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Overheard 

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After hearing President Bush defend his administration’s policy of monitoring the phone calls and e-mails of Americans believed to be aiding terrorists overseas, one Salt Laker, Ben Fulton, phoned Werner, whom he met while an exchange student in Hamburg, Germany. The conversation is hypothetical but not improbable:

nn

Fulton: Hello, old friend. Thought I’d give you a jingle while it’s still legal. How are things?

nn

Werner: Good. It’s about time you called. I really needed to practice my English. Got any vacation coming up?

nn

Fulton: Are you kidding? Unlike you Europeans, we Americans have no government-mandated vacation time, family leave or maternity leave. Kind of ironic that Republicans say they care about the family, isn’t it?

nn

Werner: True. What’s far more upsetting is Bush’s boasting about his ability to spy on U.S. citizens without a warrant. I can’t believe Americans stand for that. Don’t they care about privacy?

nn

Fulton: I wish. We care more about gun rights and the Second Amendment, really. After Hurricane Katrina, the National Rifle Association pressured FEMA to lift its ban on firearms in the housing parks for refugees. Meanwhile, conservative politicians like Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., call the right to privacy a “creation” of the U.S. Supreme Court. Our medical and financial information is practically a matter of public record when requested by corporations, and now our own government has the power to spy on us. It would be nice if there were an organization similar to the NRA that cared as much about the Fourth Amendment as the Second Amendment. On the other hand, maybe I should finally just purchase a gun.

nn

Werner: Ha! Don’t get so paranoid, man.

nn

Fulton: Really, Werner. I don’t understand what’s happening to my country. We’re “at war,” yet no one wants to give up their tax breaks. We discharged seven valuable, trained Arabic translators from the U.S. Army because they were gay. We spent $300 million to plant propaganda in Iraqi newspapers when our soldiers don’t have adequate Humvee armor. We spent money on lackeys like Karen Hughes, who doesn’t even know her Middle East history. Almost 3,000 died in 9/11, but we act like the fate of the universe rests on democracy on Iraq. Meanwhile, far more people have perished in Darfur: 160,000 and counting.

nn

Werner: All that’s true. Democracy isn’t always an end in itself. Every German knows that Adolf Hitler was democratically elected. Remember where I live, though. A lot of those 9/11 hijackers lived in Hamburg. Terrorism is a very real threat.

nn

Fulton: Oh, I don’t doubt that. It’s just that the U.S. government is so ineffectual. Government prosecutors file charges that don’t stick. Just ask Detroiters Karim Koubriti, Ahmed Hannan and Abdel-Ilah Elmardoudi and Sami Al-Arian of Tampa, Fla. They torture innocent people. Just ask Shafiq Rasul, Asif Iqbal, Rhuhel Ahmed of Tipton, England, and Maher Arar and Mamdouh Habib. And what about Khaled al-Masri, who’s suing the U.S. government for $750,000 after being held in Afghanistan and tortured for five months! Just imagine'[ksssk!]'how much he’d sue for if he were American and not'[ksssk!]'German!

nn

Werner: You’re cutting out on me. Can you speak up?

nn

Fulton: I said'[ksssk!]'just imagine how much Khaled would sue for if he were American and not German. It would be in the'[kssk! Bzzzz …]'millions!

nn

Werner: Good point. But if he were American, he probably wouldn’t sue unless they took away his gun. You sure you’re phone’s working?

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