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This gives a new meaning to the Swear Box

I find this hard to believe.  Middleborough in Massachusetts has just passed a law making it illegal to swear in public because the police chief doesn’t like swearing.

SwearingSwearingLast Monday night at a town meeting, residents voted 183-50 to approve a proposal from the police chief to impose a $20 fine on public profanity.  It’s intended to crack down on loud, profanity-laden language used by teens and other young people in the downtown area and public parks.

Some people are overjoyed with it.  Mimi Duphily, a store owner, said after the vote "I'm sure there's going to be some fallout but I think what we did was necessary.".  Mimi, who runs a motor parts store, is among the downtown merchants who wanted take a stand against the kind of swearing that can make customers uncomfortable.  "They'll sit on the bench and yell back and forth to each other with the foulest language. It's just so inappropriate," she said.

Another local merchant, Robert Saquet, described himself as being unsure about the no-swearing proposal.  He compared it to trying to enforce a ban on the seven dirty words of George Carlin, a nod to a famous sketch by the late comedian.  "In view of words commonly used in movies and cable TV, it's kind of hard to define exactly what is obscene," said Robert, who owns a downtown furniture store.  In saying all that, he’s right.  Swearing is used on TV. Are they going to give all the actor’s tickets?

Another thing I find hard to believe is that while Middleborough has a population of about 20,000 people, why did only 233 attend the meeting?  That is just over 1% of the population.  Is that enough to change a local law in America?

I remember many years ago when I worked as an Industrial Engineering Manager.  We had a swear jar in the office for lent.  It was ten pencea swear.  We invited Don Bewley, the Maintenance Manager into the office. Now, I have to explain: Don used foul language as everyday conversation and he couldn’t talk if he didn’t swear.  He was a great guy with a heart of gold.  We got Don talking about his least favourite subject: the accountant!  One of my guys took out a note pad to keep count.  Within five minutes, we got him so riled up that he owed the swear box over a fiver.  He refused to pay because he said he was provoked.  How would that be treated in Middleborough?

Middleborough has had a bylaw against public profanity since 1968.  Officials said that because that bylaw essentially makes cursing a crime it has rarely if ever been enforced because it simply would not warrant the time and expense to bring a case through the courts.

This new law decriminalises public profanity, allowing police to write tickets as they would for a traffic violation. It would also decriminalise certain types of disorderly conduct, public drinking and marijuana use, and dumping snow on a roadway.  Did I just say dumping snow onto a road?  Why not? We do that here in Ireland!

Middleborough voters approved a $50 fine for littering; a $50 fine for shovelling snow into the street and a $300 fine for smoking marijuana in public.  I’ve no problem with the littering fine.  In fact I would double it.   Shovelling snow onto the street?  Please!  Let’s be sensible.  Smoking marijuana: I thought that was illegal anyway and you’d be thrown in jail.  At least you would over here.  In fact, wasn’t Ben Dunne done (no pun intended) for possessing 32 grams of cocaine in Orlando in 1992?

Strange laws!

Robert Tallent

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