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Personal writing about what should and shouldn't be legal

One day I was talking to someone about a teen named Sarah. After just 10 minutes, this person started telling me what Sarah "should do." This was the first time I had ever met the person I was talking to and the first time she had ever heard of Sarah, yet she thought she knew what Sarah "should" do. This got me thinking about whether it "should" be a crime to tell someone else what they "should" do. And about what else "should" or "shouldn't" be a crime.

Should it be a crime to say "I hate you"? Should parents punish their children or teenagers for saying "I hate you."? Should schools expel someone for saying "I hate you"? What about if they say, "I have no respect for you."? What if they say "fuck you."?

Should it be a crime for someone to say something like "I will always love you" and then abandon the person?

And if these are crimes, what should the punishment be? Who should decide what the punishment is? Should there be a trial? What should the rules be surrounding the trial? What is admissible as evidence? Who decides this? It seems to me it all gets very complicated.

It seems to me it would be easier if parents and teachers just treated children and teenagers with respect and listened to them, and responded to their individual needs in the first place so they wouldn't be so emotionally needy later in life that they go around saying and doing things like I am talking about here. But then again I am being idealistic. Is that a crime too?

Should it be a crime for a school counselor to say "Sarah enjoys being depressed"?

Should it be a crime for a mother to tell her daughter, "You are too sensitive"?

Or a father to tell his son, "You think too much."

Should a student in a public school be allowed to wear a shirt that says "Fuck you George Bush?" Should it make any difference if they live in Holland or in Australia or the USA?

Should a student even be allowed to decide for themselves what color of shoelaces to wear? In New Zealand, England and Austraila there are public schools where a person will be sent home for such a serious offense. But in Holland, so I have been told by more than one Dutch person, a student can wear a t-shirt that says "fuck you."

Who should decide what a person can wear on their bodies? Should the people in Holland be able to decide what the people in American can wear? Should the people in Washingon DC decide what the people in Iraq should wear? Would it be okay in the "new regime" if students wore shirts that said "Fuck you, George Bush?"

Should teenagers be allowed to hug each other? About two weeks ago I was talking to some high school students before school started. I was asking them about the school rules for hugging. They told me it was not permitted. Two couples were trying not to be seen been holding each other as we spoke on the sidewalk. I told them I thought that was ridiculous and said people need to be hugged. They said someone had gotten in trouble for just holding hands. I was astounded. I asked how old they were and wondered if they were just very large two year olds. They were 16 years. Legally old enough to live on their own in this country, (Australia) but not allowed to hug or hold hands with their boyfriends while on school property.

As we talked it was clear they had never met anyone like me. I could tell how desperate they were have someone listen to them and empathize with them. But the school authority figure came and told them that they had to get inside, saying "You know the rules." I saw the pain in their faces. They were literally behind a fence. One young man looked like he had been abused. He just had that look. He was desperate for someone to listen to him. Truly desperate. Yet they were forced to leave. Well they weren't physically forced. The threat of punishment was enough. After years of being threatened and punished, and seeing punishment all around them, they knew it was easier to just obey the voice of authority without question.

While I stayed a few minutes longer to talk to the two some of the friends who did not attend that school, the school authorities called the police. So I wonder, should it be legal for me to talk to highschool students on the sidewalk outside of their school? Either in Australia or in the USA -- another country where people are told they are free... and where they are helping kill people in other places so they can be free too.

S. Hein
July 2003