There was no surprise this time, no jump when he surprised me by filling up my door frame. Big ol' John Hammer entered my office with a knock and a nod. He barely fit in the chair when he sat.

I was immediately suspicious.

John Hammer is an infrequent visitor to The Paper and usually has a gripe he wants to air. For some reason he thinks telling me will make a difference. Apparently he overestimates the media.

"I'm not sure I know what's going on and I'm not sure I like it," Hammer said as he stared down at hands the size of catcher mitts. "I mean I'm not a big conspiracy theorist, I'm really not. I don't believe there're any black helicopters flying around or things like that. But some things have been happening that are making me wonder."

I resisted the urge to reply, well hello to you, too, John. After all, this was one of the few times his voice wasn't raised. At me.

"What kind of things, John?"

"Well, that whole IRS thing and them targeting folks associated with the Tea Party. I've never thought there was some left-wing media thing going on, but dang, Timmons, if that had been George Bush or Ronald Reagan . . . But I don't want to talk about the media. What's really got me is the fact that our government took a pretty hard look at our fellow citizens just because of their political bent."

I guess I hadn't really though of it in those terms, but when John Hammer said it that way it stopped me.

"And that got me thinking back about some story that I thought was just Internet gobbledygook about drones and targeting of Americans."

Hammer paused, looking down at those big hands.

"And then I was just reading the other day about the United States Justice Department doing some secret subpoenas so they could look at the phone records of reporters with The Associated Press."

He paused again.

"I mean The Associated Press, Timmons. And the Justice Department. What happened to rights in this country? What happened to being a nation free to think what we want and believe the way we want to believe? It's starting to look like those who don't step in line will get an extra long and hard look from our very own government. And that's starting to sound like some government's we fought against a half century or so ago because we don't believe that's right."

Before I had a chance to respond, Hammer stood.

"And where's the outrage, Timmons? I don't mean the media. I mean citizens. Have we turned into such sheep that we don't care? Forget the radicals and the left or right-wing extremists. How come the average Joe isn't upset about this?"

His voice never once went up. No veins popped out on his forehead. There were no dramatics. John Hammer just nodded and went on his way. The weight of his questions remained.



Two cents, which is about how much Timmons said his columns are worth, appears periodically on Tuesdays in The Paper. Timmons is the publisher of The Paper and can be contacted at ttimmons@thepaper24-7.com.