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January 21, 2005

Bill of NON-Rights

This is my second entry. I'll cut straight to the chase. Here is the original agit-prop chain letter that was sent to me:

We The People Of The United States

This is probably the best e-mail I've seen in a long, long time.
Should be included in the platforms of both candidates!!!!!
The following has been attributed to State Representative Mitchell
Kaye from GA. This guy should run for President one day...

"We the sensible people of the United States, in an attempt to help
everyone get along, restore some semblance of justice, avoid more
riots, keep our nation safe, promote positive behavior, and secure the
blessings of debt free liberty to ourselves and our great-great-great-grandchildren,
hereby try one more time to ordain and establish some common sense
guidelines for the terminally whiny, guilt ridden, delusional, and
other liberal bed-wetters.

We hold these truths to be self evident: that a whole lot of people
are confused by the Bill of Rights and are so dim they require a Bill of

ARTICLE I: You do not have the right to a new car, big screen TV, or
any other form of wealth. More power to you if you can legally acquire
them, but no one is guaranteeing anything.

ARTICLE II: You do not have the right to never be offended. This
country is based on freedom, and that means freedom for everyone -- not
just you! You may leave the room, turn the channel, express a different
opinion, etc.; but the world is full of idiots, and probably always will be.

ARTICLE III: You do not have the right to be free from harm. If you
stick a screwdriver in your eye, learn to be more careful, do not expect
the tool manufacturer to make you and all your relatives independently

ARTICLE IV: You do not have the right to free food and housing.
Americans are the most charitable people to be found, and will gladly help
anyone in need, but we are quickly growing weary of subsidizing generation
after generation of professional couch potatoes who achieve nothing more
than the creation of another generation of professional couch potatoes.

ARTICLE V: You do not have the right to free health care. That would
be nice, but from the looks of public housing, we're just not interested
in public health care.

ARTICLE VI: You do not have the right to physically harm other people.
If you kidnap, rape, intentionally maim, or kill someone, don't be
surprised if the rest of us want to see you fry in the electric chair.

ARTICLE VII: You do not have the right to the possessions of others.
If you rob, cheat, or coerce away the goods or services of other
citizens, don't be surprised if the rest of us get together and lock you
away in a place where you still won't have the right to a big screen color TV
or a life of leisure.

ARTICLE VIII: You do not have the right to a job. All of us sure want
you to have a job, and will gladly help you along in hard times, but we
expect you to take advantage of the opportunities of education and
vocational training laid before you to make yourself useful.

ARTICLE IX: You do not have the right to happiness. Being an American
means that you have the right to PURSUE happiness, which by the way,
is a lot easier if you are unencumbered by an over abundance of idiotic
laws created by those of you who were confused by the Bill of Rights.

ARTICLE X: This is an English speaking country. We don't care where
you are from, English is our language. Learn it or go back to wherever you
came from!


ARTICLE XI: You do not have the right to change our country's history
or heritage. This country was founded on the belief in one true God. And
yet, you are given the freedom to believe in any religion, any faith,
or no faith at all; with no fear of persecution. The phrase IN GOD WE
TRUST is part of our heritage and history, and if you are uncomfortable
with it, TOUGH!!!!

If you agree, share this with a friend. No, you don't have to, and
nothing tragic will befall you if you don't. I just think it's about time
common sense is allowed to flourish.
Sensible people of the United States speak out because if you do not,
who will?

Snopes clears up the issue of authorship. I give my own response, below the fold:

The Bill of Responsibilities - in response to the Bill of NON-Rights:

Today, I received an e-mail asking for sensible people to speak out on the issue of what rights other people don’t have (scroll to the bottom to see it, but if you are getting this from me, you probably already saw the one I’m talking about). Personally, I have more admiration for the approach taken by the founding fathers – to kind of stay focused on what rights people do have, and on being certain they remain inviolable under the law. But, I can certainly see the value in looking at rights from another perspective… just not the perspective of me telling you what rights you don’t have. See, rights do come with limitations, and those limitations are often responsibilities. If we want to build ourselves up, we would do well to focus a little bit on what responsibilities we have that come with our rights. So here is my proposed Bill of Responsibilities:

Article I: If you live in the United States, you, like me, are almost certainly one of the wealthiest people in the world. There are people wealthier than us, and people less wealthy than us. We should remember, as we try to make ourselves wealthier, that everyone else is trying to do the same. We shouldn’t try to interfere with their efforts, and we should forgive their frustration if they do not make the progress they hope for. We will probably have similar frustrations.

Article II: We have a right to freedom of expression and freedom of religion. While we have a right to these freedoms, the government has a responsibility to abstain from certain kinds of expression, particularly religious expression. We should not try to use the government to promote our own religion. We should remember that in certain times and places, our expressions may be inappropriate and offensive to some. We still have the right to make them, but we should consider whether we have a responsibility to be respectful of others.

Article III: If we make a living by marketing products or services to the public, we have a responsibility to make them reasonably safe to use for their intended function, and to reduce and/or inform consumers of potential hazards from our product or service, if we are aware of them. There are such things as frivolous lawsuits, and even unjust judgments from juries and judges on these lawsuits. The system should be improved, but that doesn’t mean we should be immunized from all responsibility. Unfortunately, we hear a lot more about the relatively few cases of abuse of our judicial system, and very little about its successful use. We shouldn’t take for granted the system that protects us by enforcing those responsibilities.

Article IV: We have a responsibility in this, the most prosperous nation of the world, to be certain that everyone – especially the children - have access to adequate shelter and to adequate and nutritious meal. We should not pat ourselves on the back for our own generosity when we are barely meeting our responsibilities.

Article V: In this, the most prosperous nation of the world, we should take responsibility to be certain that everyone – especially the children – have access to basic health care. It works in Canada, Europe, and even tiny Costa Rica. We cannot call ourselves civilized while we consider a $300 a year tax cut more important than basic medical care for our society’s children.

Article VI: We have a responsibility to keep our justice system just. Revenge may feel good, but justice means making things right. That can mean restoring something that was lost, or preventing future harm, through reforming those who behave unjustly, quarantining from society, and/or deterring them. The death penalty may serve a just purpose, but too often we find ourselves executing innocent people, minors, and the mentally retarded. A humane society has a responsibility to do the deepest kind of soul searching before employing a death penalty.

Article VII: We have a responsibility to keep our incarceration system just. Our prisons may have robbers, cheaters, drug users, and many other people who have wronged themselves are others. We may have to lock them up as part of our effort to reform them and give them an opportunity to re-enter society as good citizens. While doing so, we do have to look after their welfare. We cannot call ourselves civilized while we fail to protect our prisoners from rape or beatings from other prisoners or prison guards. Providing a humane environment for our prisoners may only be the beginning to protecting our society from further violence, but it is a start.

Article VIII: We have a responsibility, as a society, to provide the opportunity to work to every adult who is willing to work. The creation of a large unemployed class in our nation will lead to deterioration of the fabric of society. Only while everyone is working can our society keep itself safe, growing, and happy. Furthermore, every person, no matter what neighborhood they are born in, no matter what their sex, skin color, religion, or sexual orientation should have the same opportunities. Our society is founded on the equality of all individuals. This equality must include educational opportunity as well as later employment opportunity.

Article IX: We have a responsibility to respect the rights of others. If we allow ourselves to believe that the laws and the court decisions that were meant to protect those rights are “stupid and idiotic”, then someone’s right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is probably going to get trampled.

Article X: We are grown-ups. We have a responsibility to act like it. When we were kids on the playground, and the new kid hadn’t learned our baseball rules yet, we made him leave. As grown-ups, when the new family hasn’t learned our language yet, we may not be able to learn their language or help them learn ours, but there is no need for us to try to scream them off of the playground or out of our neighborhood. If we cannot reach out to them ourselves, we can stand aside like grownups, and allow the many others who are willing and able to reach out to them.


Article XI: We have a responsibility to understand our nation’s history and heritage. That includes the good: the bill of rights, the emancipation proclamation, and every triumph over tyranny and every advance in the quality of our society, but it also includes the bad: the extermination of Native Americans, the trail of tears, slavery, child labor, Vietnam, and many other regrettables. We have a responsibility to leave a history and heritage for our children that include more of the good, and no more of the bad. Part of that history and heritage was our nation’s founding by people of various faiths, including various denominations of Christianity, Deism and some who would today be considered “atheistic”. Part of that heritage is a separation of church and state embodied in numerous ways by our Constitution. And part of that heritage is the later addition of religious slogans to our currency, and (in the days of McCarthyism, to our Pledge of Allegiance). There will continue to be a debate about the wisdom and constitutionality of those changes. That debate is also a part of our history and heritage. Our responsibility is to carry out that debate honestly, rationally, with wisdom, and at least for me, with a large eye toward the Golden Rule.

If you received a copy of the “Bill of Non-Rights”, please consider forwarding this to others who received that e-mail. We build ourselves up by considering our own responsibilities, not by trying to restrict the rights of others.

Posted by smijer at 11:32 AM | Comments (4)

January 11, 2005

Premiere: You might be a redneck if... seriously

Today, I received a chain-letter in my inbox that just struck me as the most self-serving, self-righteous B.S. It was the flint that sparked this project. Here it is, in it's entirety:

Subject: Fw: You might be a redneck...seriously

We have enjoyed redneck jokes for years. It's time to take a reflective look at the core beliefs of a culture that values home, family, country and God.

If I had to stand before a dozen terrorists who threaten my life, I'd choose a half dozen or so rednecks to have my back.

I hope I am one of those. If you feel the same, pass this on to your redneck riends. Ya`ll know who ya are...

You might be a redneck if. . .

It never occurred to you to be offended by the phrase, "One nation, under God. . "

You've never protested about seeing the 10 Commandments posted in public places.

You still say "Christmas" instead of "The Holidays."

You bow your head when someone prays.

You stand and place your hand over your heart when they play the National Anthem. Tears may even come to your eyes when the Anthem is done right.

You treat all veterans with great respect, and always have.

You've never burned or shown disrespect for an American flag.

You respect your elders and expect youngsters to do the same.

You see red when another country says we are a greedy, self-serving nation.

If you got this email from me, it's because I believe that you, like me, may have some redneck in you.

Normally, I just delete them. But I have observed that they do have an amplifying effect on the attitudes and ideas that are gaining currency by one avenue or another, and I've always felt that it just isn't right to let them go unanswered. So, I answered this one. And, after I did, I felt such a catharsis from it, that I was inspired to start this project. You will find my answer below the fold. (I've edited it ever so slightly since I clicked "reply all" to the chain letter. Invariably, we always think of something we want to say differently... so this is the mildly edited version)...

You might be a good ole’ boy (or gal) if…

Redneck jokes are fun because they are self-deprecatory. Every once in a while, someone – usually a politician – decides that it’s time for his constituency to pat itself on the back for being “better” than his political opposition. I think it’s time to look for ways that we the people: whether rural, urban, or suburban; black, white, or other; Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, or secular… can all be “good ole boys… or gals…”

If I had to stand before a dozen terrorists who threatened my life, I’d like to have some good ole boys … or gals… at my back.

I hope I am one of those. If you feel the same, pass this on to others who might have a similar hope. Ya’ll know who you are…

You might be a good ole boy (or gal) if…

It never occurred to you to flaunt your religious viewpoint through government institutions in hopes of offending a political opponent, or promoting your religious views over your neighbors'. As a matter of fact, you don't feel your God needs government help at all.

Whether you say “Christmas” or “the Holidays” is less important than whether you spend it with people you love.

You are respectful of others’ religious practices while you are in their company, even if you disagree with their religious views.

You enjoy the national anthem because you are patriotic. You also don’t bitch about, or try to avoid paying, your fair share of taxes to keep that nation strong. You don’t let sentimentality over the anthem substitute for voting, or for trying to help build a country where everyone is safe, and has equal opportunity, and where we take care of our own the very best we can.

You treat veterans with respect. And firefighters. And police. And teachers. And sanitation workers. And…

You’ve never desecrated the spirit of America: peacefulness, liberty, and equality before the law.

You respect your elders, and you try to teach youngsters to do the same by word and example.

You look for ways that the U.S. can be more generous, and you recognize that our prosperity is worth more the more we use it to make the world a livable place for everyone. You never feel self-satisfied to the point that you are insulted when others feel that the government acting on our behalf is sometimes greedy or self-serving.

If you got this e-mail from me, it isn’t because I think I have a lot of “good ole boy” in me… it’s because I think we all have the potential to.

If you get a copy of the first chain-letter, I hope you will send a reply with a more positive slant back up the chain. Feel free to use mine. If you compose your own, leave it in the comments here...

Posted by smijer at 05:27 PM | Comments (0)


Please post submissions of e-mail chain letters you have received and, if you have composed them, your replies, using the comment section below. This thread will be policed regularly for spam, or for off topic replies. Only submissions related to e-mail chain letters will be allowed to remain here. Thanks for contributing to the Chain Letter Project!

Posted by smijer at 03:25 PM | Comments (2)

About the Chain Letter Project

This page is intended to provide recipients of chain e-mails a ready reply to counter the propagandistic contents of popular e-mail chain letters. This is not intended as an alternative to the world-class e-fraud busters at Instead, it is meant as a means of applying a "counterspin", where the basic issue is not one of e-mail as "hoax", but instead where the e-mail is intended as a way to reinforce political or religious stereotypes and foster a divisive attitude. The intent is to provide a response to those e-mails that will give the "other side" of the story in terms that provide the most compelling critique of the ideas expressed in any chain letter that might land in your e-mail box. Readers are encouraged to use "Reply all" to send these responses, or others that make similar points from the readers' own perspectives, back up the e-mail chain that brought it to them.

In order to do the best job of documenting and responding to the numerous chain letter type e-mails that go around, readers are encouraged to submit examples that land in their e-mail box. They may also wish to submit responses they have composed to the letters they find, or new responses to the letters I have posted.

You can be certain that for any e-mail chain letter that I have found and posted with a response, I have already used "reply all" to move it back upstream.

Happy e-mailing!

Posted by smijer at 03:23 PM | Comments (0)