Our Right to Swear for the Hell of It

By: Daniel Nardini

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - CommentaryAt a time when many towns, cities and even states are experiencing huge debt, growing unemployment, growing poverty, and rising crime associated with gang violence, I would think that the last thing that any place would concern itself with is the rise in the use of swear words in public. Well, the Town of Middleboro, Massachusetts, decided to pass a law that requires that those who “cuss” in public must be fined $20.00. I wonder what idiot police officer would issue a ticket to anyone for saying something nasty? I ask myself how would issuing tickets for obscenities help to fight crime, unemployment and poverty? We have already visited this issue before.. Just last year, a state judge in North Carolina struck down an obscenity law from 1913 that made it a crime to use “indecent” language in public. The judge made it clear that even dirty language and obscene words alone cannot constitute a crime. Even if such language is unseemly in public, it is protected speech under the North Carolina state constitution and the U.S. Constitution.

One person on the town council, Diane Matella, made very clear her opposition to this town ordinance. She asked the council to clarify what words and phrases constituted obscene words, and that this law would definitely impinge on the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. I should explain that there are states, towns and even small rural communities that have had for a long time laws and ordinances that make it a crime to use “obscene words in public.” The law in North Carolina was passed a long time ago. Back then, people did not think that any kind of “cuss” words should be uttered in public, and that they did not think carefully about the constitutionality of it. Sometimes blind morality truly blinds people’s minds to the rights of the innocent, the rights of suspects, and what serves justice. Forcing my moral beliefs on others is not what law enforcement should be about. One person’s morality is another person’s sacrilege.

Personally, I do not like to swear for the hell of it. How we govern our words and our conduct is a sign of who we are and what we believe in. Afterall, I do not want to turn off some of my neighbors and make myself look like some low life. But criminally penalizing me for it is a whole different matter. That is truly crazy. What if I should accidentally hit my foot on a big rock, or fall down, or slip on some doggie doodoo and yell, “Oh s**t!” Am I supposed to be fined by some policeman, who happens to pass by, just for that? Don’t police have better things to do than this? Of course they do! We should not have lawmakers who take it into their minds that enforcing morality is as important or more important than trying to help people who have become victims of physical violent crimes. I hope this law will be struck down as well—this law should never have been passed in the 21st Century. Again on a personal note, all of those Middleboro council members who voted for this law have horse crackers, mule fritters and cow cookies for brains!

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