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posted: 9/17/2012 8:28 AM

Editorial: Embracing blessedly imperfect freedom

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The Daily Herald Editorial Board

We live in a country that is not perfect, and perhaps because of human nature, those of us who live here tend to preoccupy ourselves with those imperfections.

That preoccupation isn't necessarily bad; perhaps, in fact, that is what helps us to create an ever more perfect union. The self-criticism in our better natures isn't an effort to tear down, but rather to build up. But get too preoccupied and it's easy to lose sight of the freedoms that we have and how precious and rare they are.

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We can't speak for you (which, come to think of it, is one point of freedom, isn't it?), but when comics like many one could name from Saturday Night Live, the Comedy Channel or any range of popular venues make jokes about the Bible or religion, we can be offended, sometimes even repulsed. There are plenty of ways to be funny without being offensive to people's spiritual values.

But we've never wished for a law to stop sacrilege. Any more than we've wished for a law requiring us to think or believe whatever any given comic thinks or believes -- or, to broaden the example, what any given politician or commentator or artist or actor or athlete or journalist or any other person thinks or believes.

This is America. People are free to say what they think, even if what they think is outrageous or offensive or just plain stupid. And then we're all free to debate or repudiate or ostracize as the general opinions and arguments might dictate.

That's true in virtually everything. Not just humor, not just religion, but politics and sports and education and, well, everything else.

This is America. People here are free to say what they think. This is such a part of who we are that we're all sort of befuddled when angry anti-U.S. protests break out and multiply continents away because some independent movie producer no one's ever heard of produces what sounds to be an idiotic opinionated movie no one's ever seen.

We are, at least most of us, genuinely befuddled by this. Unquestionably, few of us really understand it. What are the mobs protesting? That a country of 300 million includes one goofball who makes an offensive movie? Are there no goofballs over there?

Actually, what they are protesting is freedom. When you stop and think about it, what they are protesting is that we don't have a law against goofballs, that our government isn't tracking this movie producer down and arresting him or worse.

We cherish freedom. We cherish it so much we take it for granted.

The foreign protests often are a symptom of cultures or subcultures that have not grown up in freedom and may just be learning all that it entails. In these cases, instead of us imposing our freedom on others, others appear bent on imposing their repudiation of freedom on us.

It's a dangerous irony, but thankfully we don't have to be perfect to guard against it. Just appreciative for all the imperfections we have to occupy ourselves with.

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