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A freedom to die for

Boy, oh, boy, I’d like to get my hands on the guy who made that “Innocence of Muslims” movie.

Didn’t he know all the trouble he was going to cause for Americans? Didn’t he care that he was going to make those Libyans so mad that four poor Americans would die?

Boy, oh, boy, if I could get my hands on that guy, I’d ...

What would I do? What would any of us do?

As Americans, most of us are pretty fond of the First Amendment — “Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech.”

Not all speech is free. There are some kinds of speech that aren’t protected in all circumstances, such as obscenities, defamation, perjury and blackmail. You won’t be protected if you yell “Fire!” at the local shopping center.

But most other forms of speech we tolerate because to make them illegal would be far worse.

Now don’t get me wrong. That doesn’t mean we like all free speech or free expression.

The Jewish residents of Skokie were mighty unhappy when the Ku Klux Klan wanted to march through their town.

A truly bizarre piece of art by Andres Serrano depicting a religious item soaking in bodily fluids got people way up in arms.

Commercials on programs we don’t like can make us crazy-mad toward the sponsors.

But what do we do?

We try to block the marchers.

We agitate to remove federal funding from the artists.

We even talk with our pocketbooks and threaten boycotts of those who offend us.

But while we might threaten some of the offenders with death, we generally keep our anger on a more manageable level.

In John Stuart Mill’s essay, “On Liberty,” he wrote, “The peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it.”

If the opinion should turn out to be right, we’ve lost the opportunity to learn something.

But even if the opinion is wrong, such as I certainly think it is in the case of “Innocence of Muslims,” let it be defeated by the facts in the clear light of the truth.

Whether you like former President Bill Clinton or not, I think he had some excellent words on the topic the other day.

“We weren’t disrespecting Islam by not squelching a film trailer that nobody in authority knew anything about; that 99 percent of us think was crude and disrespectful and awful,” Clinton said. “We have learned the hard way, over more than 200 years, that in order to preserve freedom and liberty, including the freedom of religion, you have to allow people to say and do things that you find abhorrent. And you can’t react every time you’re insulted.”

And you certainly don’t have the right to kill anybody.

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