Boston Old State HouseBy Robert Gillis
Published in The Foxboro Reporter April 2003 and the Boston City Paper July 2006

With all the important news lately about National Security, the Total Information Act, Internet privacy, and the balance of personal freedoms versus public safety, much has been discussed recently regarding our “rights.”

Unfortunately, in our society there seem to be people who justify or excuse their anti-social and destructive behavior by saying they have a “right” to behave poorly. With that in mind, I thought I’d provide the following handy list; which I have named, “The Bill of NO rights.”

In no particular order:

  • You do not have the right to violate other people’s space with your noise. Turn down the woofer on your car stereo — there should be NO reason for others to be able to hear the rumbling booms of your car stereo from half a mile away or even from the car behind you. I’m not kidding. I have been out walking my dogs late at night and I can hear the BOOM of a car stereo long before I see headlights coming down the street. The stadium just called; the Rolling Stones asked if you could please turn down your car stereo.
  • You do not have the right to inflict your cell phone on the rest of us. Turn your ringer down and stop taking calls in movies, churches, restaurants, and bathrooms … In fact, leave the room when you take your calls — no one is interested in your personal phone business. You do not look important walking around with the phone glued to your ear (in fact, you look like those chattering monkeys yakking on bananas in the Verizon commercial!). And for goodness sake, the technology has improved dramatically — stop yelling into your cell phone — the person on the other end can hear you just fine.
  • You do not have the right to provide TMI — Too Much information. No one is interested in the explicit details of your surgery, sickness, and bedroom exploits. We don’t care how much you paid for your house, how you saw a cross section of your kidney, or the gory details of your stomach flu. For most of us, we don’t want to know what you do in your private time.
  • You do not have the right to talk smack about other people because they are different than you — straight or gay, rich or poor, republican or democrat, black, white, or green, it’s none of your business. Keep your own house in order and stop wondering about what goes on in others. On that note, whatever happens between two CONSENTING ADULTS is none of your business.
  • You do not have the right to complain about any elected official or election issue if you do not vote. Decisions are made by those who show up.
  • You do not have the right to judge today’s kids by the standards of your own youth. We grew up differently than our parents, who grew up differently than our grandparents, and so on. Today’s kids are not better or worse — they are just different, and trying to find their own way.
  • You do not have the right to call anyone stupid because they are not an expert on a particular subject. The only stupid people are those who refuse to use common sense. Say it with me: You do not have the right to blame others when you have jettisoned common sense. If you smoke and develop cancer, you do not have the right to blame the cigarette companies — warning labels have been on cigarettes and cigarettes ads for nearly FORTY years. If you balloon up to 400 pounds you do not have the right to blame McDonalds for your six-big-Mac a day habit. If you have a car accident while on your cell phone you have no right to Sue the car company, cell phone maker, State, or other drivers.
  • You do not have the right to blame movies and televisions for your children’s language or actions if you’re never around to talk to them.
  • You do not have the right to Spam email. Stop forwarding every joke email, blessing, rumor and touching miracle story to the 700 people on your computer mailing list. Not sending the email to 10 friends in the next two minutes will not result in your being hit by a truck or having bad luck. There’s no tax on email. There is no email-tracking program that will send you money for every email you send. There is no kid with cancer who needs your email. If it sounds to good to be true it usually is. Please — stop the Spam!
  • You do not have the right to blame everyone BUT yourself. The evidence that everyone is out to persecute you just isn’t that compelling. Everyone else is busy with his or her own concerns and problems. If you feel everyone in the universe is wrong, guess what, it ain’t the universe that’s the problem.
  • You do not have the right to treat people rudely or poorly because you are busy or hurting. We are all busy and we all carry our own baggage.
  • And finally, you do not have the right to take your “real” rights and freedom for granted. Be for or against anything you wish, but remember that your freedom to protest and disagree was won by the struggles and deaths of many, many people. This world would be a far better place if people would stop yammering about their “rights” as an excuse for bad behavior or not exercising common sense.

This column was brought to you in cooperation with my right to free speech.

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