If you read the newspaper regularly, you are certain to read stories of someone saying or doing something that upsets you. If you should doubt this, I will provide a couple of examples.
On July 4, the Freedom From Religion Foundation ran a full-page ad in dozens of national newspapers making a forceful case that the U.S. Constitution was framed by atheists and agnostics. In the ad, John Adams is quoted as saying, "The Government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion." A second quote, "Question with boldness even the existence of a God . . .," is attributed to Thomas Jefferson.
The ad irritated people across the country, including more than a few in Utah. Those who were not aggravated by Freedom From Religion Foundation's ad, were likely to be annoyed by a contrasting ad placed by the company Hobby Lobby.
The Hobby Lobby ad, contained quotes from former U.S. presidents, founding fathers, a Supreme Court justice, and journalists, to support the argument that the United State was founded upon, and deeply rooted in, Christian principles. The first quote to appear in the Hobby Lobby ad is from George Washington. "It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor."
I suspect that the majority of Americans would be at least mildly irritated by either the Hobby Lobby ad or the counterpoint from the Freedom From Religion Foundation. However, my second example may strike a more widespread cord of frustration.
Last week, the suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, pleaded not guilty to the charges relating to the bombing. He did this in front of three dozen bombing victims and family members who were present to observe the court proceeding. This means that Tsarnaev is likely to undergo a lengthy trial that will cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands, if not more than a million dollars. Does anyone believe that Tsarnaev is not guilty? Does anyone believe that he has even the slightest chance of being found not guilty? I am offended by Tsarnaev's choice to plead not guilty.
The cliche goes that when you find yourself getting angry you should count to ten. An alternative is to consider the Constitution and Bill of Rights. There is a good chance that the folks who are doing something that annoys you are exercising a right protected by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
The rights of fundamentalist Christians, agnostics and atheists to express their beliefs are protected by the First Amendment that protects the right to freedom of religion and freedom of expression. The rights of anyone accused of a crime, even a dastardly criminal, are protected by the Sixth Amendment that provides the right to a public trial by an impartial jury, the right to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation and to confront witnesses, and the right to have the assistance of legal counsel.
I, as much as anyone else, am chagrined when I see someone acting like an ignoramus, rascal or scoundrel. However, we live in a country where we enjoy a great many freedoms. In some cases this freedom involves the freedom to behave badly.
Oscar Wilde once said, "I may not agree with you, but I will defend to the death your right to make an ass of yourself." We are privileged to live in a nation where you are free to do a great many things, including making an ass of yourself.