Don’t Take Your Freedoms For Granted

History is full of heroes who fought for our freedom. Because of them, I enjoy many freedoms, such as the freedom to say whatever I want, freedom to wear whatever I want, and freedom to eat whatever I want.

Actually, I do NOT always enjoy these freedoms, largely because I am a married man. If you are married, you can’t always eat whatever you want – sometimes you have to eat what your spouse has cooked. If your spouse has spent two hours preparing dinner, you’d better eat it, unless you can come up with a good excuse.

Husband: “Sorry, honey, but it’s against my religious beliefs.”

Wife: “It’s against your beliefs to eat Bahamian vegetable stew?”

Husband: “Yes, I try to avoid anything that has the word ‘ham’ in it.”

Wife: “But you use shampoo.”

Husband: “I put it on my hair; I don’t eat it.”

Wife: “So you wouldn’t mind if I took the Bahamian vegetable stew that I spent the last two hours cooking and dumped it on your hair?”

Husband: “I’d prefer to eat it, thank you. But let’s call it Caribbean vegetable stew.”

It’s not just spouses who greatly influence what you eat. You also have to abide by the eating rules and customs of your society. Most societies, for example, frown upon the consumption of your fellow species. You must not eat your own kind, lest your own kind eat you. That’s why legendary heavyweight boxer Mike Tyson once bit off part of Evander Holyfield’s ear, but did not chew. He knew where to draw the line. He knew that boxing fans would forgive him for being animalistic, but not cannibalistic.

Exercising their freedom of speech at JFK Airport in New York in 2017.

Eating rules and customs vary considerably around the world. What’s considered a delicacy in one country may be strictly forbidden in another. You may not have the freedom to eat pork in Pakistan, but you can feast on almost anything else. You have choices. Choices are good.

The same isn’t true for other freedoms. Indonesia, for example, just passed a law forbidding anyone from insulting the president. This “crime” carries a maximum sentence of three years in prison. It would have been better, I believe, for lawmakers in Indonesia to give people choices: “It is against the law to call the president a pig. You may, however, call the president a donkey.”

Among the many freedoms I enjoy, freedom of speech is the one I value the most. So let me take the opportunity to say this: “President Joko Widodo of Indonesia, you are such a joke. I’d call you a jackass, but I don’t want to insult jackasses, even if there’s no law against insulting them. Please stop taking away people’s freedoms. If you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen. Nobody likes your cooking anyway.”

One of the freedoms that Indonesia has taken away is the freedom to sleep with another consenting adult outside marriage. You might get a one-year prison sentence if you’re caught having premarital, extramarital or postmarital sex. Cohabitation – living together without being married – may get you six months in the slammer. On the bright side, you may get your very own cell, especially if you complain loudly about cohabitation with another prisoner.

These laws apply to not just Indonesian citizens, but also foreign tourists. So if you’re heading to Bali for a holiday with your boyfriend or girlfriend, you’d better book separate rooms or pretend you’re siblings.

Hotel manager: “You are sharing a room?”

Guest: “Yes, we’re brother and sister.”

Manager: “But you have different surnames.”

Guest (handing over $100): “Brother and half-sister. We have different fathers, but the same mother.”

Manager: “Oh yes, I understand. And if you see me around with a young lady, she is my quarter-niece. Daughter of my half-sister.”

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