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OPINION: Big brother is watching

by Robert Box | May 12, 2021 at 5:25 a.m.

Like so many others living in our community, I had the privilege of attending a number of schools to learn about life and how to live it. Although I never majored in history or social science, I did have a significant number of courses in those areas that I had to master before graduation. To that end, I thought I had received a pretty good background of information on the foundation of our country and the people who organized its framework. I was wrong.

Frankly, I do not know what the problem was, but I now know that I missed out on a lot of vital information that was never presented to me. Since God called me into the ministry, it was disturbing to discover that overseas in the Eastern World there was at least twice the amount of writing and historical facts than in the United States; and I had been exposed to none of it. It's no wonder good students like to spend at least a semester studying abroad.

Now, I am learning about some of our history which was left out of my education. Since my wife is a history buff, she has encouraged me to do more reading about the history of our country than I normally enjoy; but I am learning. For instance, we all know the stories about the Revolutionary War and the role George Washington played in it, but I have now discovered that the war probably would not have been won without a network of spies providing him with inside information about the British army. Patriot spies? Who would have thought it?

There are a series of television programs called "TURN" that are at least partially based upon the book by Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger entitled "George Washington's Secret Spies." I found the television series somewhat boring (my wife found them highly interesting), but the book is great.

It turns out that Washington organized a select group of six people to be his spies, and without their input, the war might not have been won. These spies have now been identified as the Culper Spy Ring. Its members were: Robert Townsend, Austin Roe, Caleb Brewster, Abraham Woodhull, James Rivington, and Agent 355, a woman whose identity remains unknown. In order to maintain secrecy, they each changed their names.

Think about this for a moment. Historians are now saying that if Washington had not learned early on to utilize spies, we probably would not have won the Revolutionary War.

Let's fast forward to today. There is a lot going on in our world that we ordinary citizens know nothing about. The CIA and FBI have a huge network of spies all over the world who feed information into our leaders on a regular basis. Apparently, there is an intelligence meeting each morning to bring our leaders up-to-date. President Trump normally ignored these meetings, but President Biden and earlier presidents attended them faithfully.

When I was on the staff at a major hospital in our area, I used the in-house computer to communicate some concerns to the rest of the chaplaincy staff. One of the chaplains immediately challenged me, pointing out that the hospital leadership normally read all of these communications. I didn't know that, but now I know that anyone working for the government has to be extremely careful about using the phones or internet to communicate, since this information is routinely monitored, and finding the wrong information on your phone or computer may be immediate grounds for dismissal.

But it doesn't stop there. Most of our phone apps have requests to allow others to obtain our location. In fact, I now know that law enforcement may triangulate signals from your phone and locate you should the need arise. Most cars have a built-in transponder which allows companies like On-Star to track you all the time. The maps app has a satellite that easily shows where you live when your address is typed into it.

So, when someone comes to me and requests confidentiality, it also becomes ludicrous. Under certain circumstances, I, as a chaplain, may keep confidences from legal authorities, but normally there are other ways to find out what was said. Thus, it is hard these days to minister to people about the many sensitive and private matters of their lives. "Big Brother" is watching and, unfortunately, so are a lot of other people.

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Robert Box is the former chaplain for the Bella Vista Police Department and is currently the Fire Department chaplain. Opinions expressed are those of the author.

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