Thursday, June 3, 2010

The right to forward electronic mail.

I am curious about something. Should a person have the right to forward? Can forwarding be used as a form of hate? Let me back up for a moment and explain.

It is a beautiful morning in Kentucky. The birds have become fascinated with my window and literally woke me up this morning. I don't know what they were talking about but it was loud and melodious!

About this time I am in the midst of the morning routine and I open my e.mail to find five of them. I don't get many and not this early. It takes a bit for the retailers to get to reminding me they love me and "please buy this stuff we have ready to ship!"

Today the five were from my sister. She lives in Arizona and is about as opposite to me in her beliefs as a person can be. Usually her communications are directed at how I must change my evil ways and become her. This is done with forwards from every possible antithetical hate site she can find. We're on Facebook too so her joined groups read like the total definition of "what's wrong with America as it exists now." These sites describe an America back about the time we were born as perfect!

I put this compulsion she has down to her having inherited the "evangelism" gene in the family. My mother was a believer in our duty as Baptists to convert every other person that existed because they were WRONG! I was changed at an early age. This happened about the time I learned to read and discovered the local library.

This thing from my sister was 631 words; one full page of type single spaced. Two days before I had gotten three e.mails of forwarded stuff and I sent her this image:

Her e.mails this morning were in response to that. It involved a statement that her husband was part American Indian and therefore her children and grandchildren were allowed to remain in the country. Then she told me where our family came from and therefore were immigrants and was I ready to move back to Ireland or England, etc. But "we" were not illegal people. We were legal immigrants. Any anyway they wouldn't take me back!

What a lovely thing.

This was composed by her and sent at about midnight her time. So, the last thing she was thinking about before bed was how to debate me on the issue of illegal entry into America.

Don't get me wrong here. I receive e.mails from friends, acquaintances, clients, people who happened to trip across me in some other comment forum, which are just like this. They are seldom personal after the first contact. I have to give her that. She did take the time to write me a personal 621 words. My universal response to those others who do that is to send them a very polite note: "Please do not forward or send me any more of this kind of thing. Feel free to remove me from your distribution list. Thank you."

I could respond to my sister the same way though to be real I don't get inflamatory e.mail of the liberal kind.  So far I have chose not to as we were totally out of contact for over twelve years and only recently did I tippy toe into reestablishing a connection with her. She is my only relative.

Reggie gets this kind of stuff all the time from old school chums he was never friends with.  He will compose a reasonable succinct response. You probably get similar stuff.

If you received a real paper hand written letter that said what these messages do, what would you think?

That brings me back to my first line. Do we have the right to forward mail that the recipient sees as hate mail just because we have some real or tenuous connection to a person?

Perhaps a slim volume of etiquette on online or techno communication is in order.