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The Perfect Freedom of Strangers

"The freedom of the free world tends towards the perfect freedom of strangers. When Vietnamese refugees settled in Southern California they found its culture toxic to something they had always taken for granted, their family life. It's a free country, you can do what you want: get married, get divorced, settle down, leave town, ski, farm, talk on the radio, buy the radio; the problem is to find someone to do it with.In this old lovers' quarrel between liberty and community, Westerners are those who defend freedom . . . Those particularly American movie heroes, the cowboy and the private eye, act out for us the drama of survival in a land where man has no attachments. The cowboy and the detective survive despite lives of complete rootlessness, and they do it by fighting the lawlessness that is the necessary companion to the perfect freedom of strangers."

from The Gift by Lewis Hyde

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