Stretching Freedom

I have a habit of stretching out my t-shirts and underwear. I’ll just leave the stretched underwear out of the conversation and focus on my t-shirts. Many of you are now giving a deep sigh of relief.

My wife, Carol, tells me that I tuck in my t-shirts too much, and the result is that the neckline stretches and begins to droop like someone’s double chin. After a while, the neckline is not only drooping, but also frayed. Sometime in the darkness of the night, Carol scoots some of those shirts out of my dresser and sends them to Jesus.

She makes the point that I’ve stretched them out so much that they have become an eyesore. I reply that they were just starting to feel comfortable draped over my upper body. She makes the point that my comfort is another person’s discomfort and dis-ease. I guess you could say that my “disease” causes “dis-ease”. One time she discovered that I had accumulated 120 t-shirts, half of which needed to become t-rags. The t-shirt I sleep in is from 1997. It feels broken in. All of those t-shirts that Carol removed felt fine. (Yes, a few had rips and mustard stains on them, but I was okay with that!)

Keeping that metaphor in mind, I’ve been wondering a lot lately about freedom. Is there a limit? Can freedom be only stretched so far, and then after that, usually the same words, it becomes frayed and all drooped out?

Recent arguments about the limits on firearms and reproductive rights have brought the issue of how stretchable freedom is and should be to our cultural neckline.

We’re a culture that does like to stretch the limits. Think speed limit and our understanding of what that speed limit really is! Or just go into my middle school for the last month or so of the school year and see firsthand how a number of students stretch their understanding of the school dress code. My limit in one area may be way out of the ballpark compared to your limit. My conservative view on one matter may make you start itching in its narrow viewpoint.

So does freedom have a common sense limit? If it doesn’t, does that leave the door open for people to do things like crash-and-stash stores and steal merchandise, as we’ve seen in a few places across the country? Does our personal convenience have the right-of-way when it comes to ethical and moral decisions? If so, how far can that be stretched? In a society that seems to see entitlement as a right, is there a difference between the freedoms that our forefathers envisioned and the entitled attitudes of our populace? Can we take our rights to freedom so far that we rip ourselves apart?

I know, I know, all that from a drooping and frayed t-shirt. I guess I’m thankful that I have the freedom to connect the ludicrous with our liberties.

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