Are you a terrorist?
I ask my bartender for a drink.
He looked at me and asks why Iím shaking.
I tell him I found my maintenance man rifling through my files.
He is apparently working for the FBI or CIA.
I wonder how the man can live with himself working for such low lifes.
My bartender says the guy needs to feed his family like everybody else.
Besides, if I donít have anything to hide, why should I worry?
Everybody has something to hide, I tell him.
People cheat on their taxes, their loved ones and their employers.
And the last people I want with their fingers in my underwear are federal agents.
Besides that, what is legal today might well be illegal tomorrow.
Thatís when I flip out a cigarette and watch the bartender shake his head and tell me I canít smoke in the bar.
I look around and wonder what secret camera is focused on me right at this moment, collecting bits of information that might be later used against me if and when the government decides to build a case against me as a terrorist.
The bartender tells me itís my fault, that I have a big mouth, that I shouldnít be so critical of people in power, that I should respect authority.
And if I have to do anything immoral to lie low and keep it out of sight the way all good Christian Americans do.
I ask him what is the point of having free speech if I canít use it?
He moans and asks me if I really want to get labeled a terrorist?
Speaking out against the government could be seen as lending comfort to the enemy, he whispers, as if he suspects the FBI has a camera on us, too, and that the CIA will soon sweep in and kidnap us both for a little torture session in some secret prison in Pakistan.
Which enemy am I comforting, I ask?
There have been so many over the years.
We once hated the British, then the Spanish, even the Germans.
Now they are all our friends.
We even seem to tolerate the Russians, although we secretly know they are still all communists.
Our enemies are terrorists, the bartender tells us in an even deep whisper as if he can still see the planes slamming into the World Trade Center. Terrorists are everywhere, he claims, even under our beds, and for all he knows I might be a terrorists after all.
Maybe I am, I say.
It all depends on how those madmen in Washington describe a terrorist.
If I donít believe Jesus Christ is my personal savior, Iím a terrorist.
If I say anything bad about my president, Iím a terrorist,
If I donít shut up and do exactly what I am told, Iím a terrorist.
And thatís the problem, I tell my bartender.
Maybe heís a terrorist, too, and doesnít even know it.