Paul Jacob

If you’re like me, you don’t particularly want to live in an America where Donald Trump has a chance of being elected.

But, also if you’re like me, you definitely don’t want an America that would prohibit The Donald (or is it “The Trump” . . . or “The Hair”?) from running.

This distinction, between the outcomes or the things you approve of, on the one hand, and the system you support, on the other, must be kept in mind as the political season heats up. Especially in America, because, in the land of the free, we pride ourselves on making just such distinctions.

But too often forget them.

The classic example of this is free speech. “I may disapprove of what you say, but will defend to the death your right to say it.” If you are for freedom, you must often defend speech, or ideas, or what-have-you, that you disagree with.

The inability to “get” this principle, this division of sentiment, is a perennial problem in civilized life. Too often you hear people say “Think about the signal you are sending if you make such-and-such legal.”

But what applies to speech also applies to religion, and sports, and even less savory things, like recreational drug use.

We must uphold the distinction. It was once a live issue whether “tolerating” Catholicism would be allowed on this continent. (Indeed, one reason for our vast public school system is that so many immigrants were coming from Catholic countries, and the Protestant old-timers thought that the country could not survive unless Catholic children were seized and schooled into a sort of lukewarm Protestantism, so we’d all have a “common” history and viewpoint.) Few see a great harm in religious freedom, today. Indeed, there’s every reason to believe that we’re much better off in America not only to have such freedom of conscience — freedom to worship and gather, peacefully, as we see best — but to have no official church steering the body politic towards one way of doing things.

We can cope with diversity.

Indeed, I suspect that the ordinary Joe sees this better than many more extraordinary Abels and Zekes — of anything, whether it be a creed or even a diet.

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.