Writing on the Double Yellow Line

Militant moderate, unwilling to concede any longer the terms of debate to the strident ideologues on the fringe. If you are a Democrat or a Republican, you're an ideologue. If you're a "moderate" who votes a nearly straight party-ticket, you're still an ideologue, but you at least have the decency to be ashamed of your ideology. ...and you're lying in the meantime.

Location: Illinois, United States

Saturday, November 19, 2005

I'll See Your Standard, and Double It

I'll See Your Standard, and Double It
© 2005 Ross Williams
[Originally written late spring 2005. -ed]

My wife and I had a discussion the other day. Now, normally, we agree about most things, and agree in principle on nearly everything else. Which is a trait of hers that I appreciate immensely. Sure beats the prior alternative I endured for roughly a millennium.

But on this topic, in this discussion, she doesn't agree. I'd be indignant about it, but it's far too trivial. It has a Significance Rating below the number of dill pickles necessary for proper nutrition.[1]

The state of Virginia had introduced into its state legislature a measure that would have imposed a $50 fine on its residents for "lewdly" or "indecently" having pants that did not cover their butts.[2] Presumably, this would affect only those between the ages of 14 and 22.

Personally, I'm in favor of this, but with a yawn.

My wife, she's agin it.

Her rationale: "their butts are still covered by their boxers".

Mine: "I think it's dumb to walk around like that, and I don't want to see it."

Later that night, there was a Victoria's Secret commercial on television, and she told me, "Uh oh! Cover your eyes! There's some indecency."

Not at all. There's nothing indecent about women being dressed like that. Especially in commercials. I can immediately change the channel if I'm offended. I can't easily "immediately" change the street I'm walking down or driving on if I'm disturbed by some kid's hairy ass, covered by boxers or not. It would either violate the laws of physics or the laws of traffic were I to try.

Plus, on a side note, there's nothing I consider offensive about a nubile young female dressed in such a way. I'm a guy, and yes, I have a very pronounced double standard. My wife is not a guy, and she's kinda the same way in reverse.

Viva la difference.

Of course, as a parent of 4, most of whom are, at this writing, on the shy side of puberty and adolescence, I don't want such sights to be paraded in front of my children in public. My job as a parent does not need to be made gratuitously – even if trivially – harder.

I fully understand that my position on this is a double standard – in several respects:

1] I have different views on this based upon the sex of the "perp".

2] I dressed in a way, at the age of 19, very close to what I would not now want to have to look at or have paraded in front of my kids.

3] I am a very strict lower-case-'L' libertarian, which is to say, the government's job is not to be our collective nanny. Their job is protect us from others who are trying to hurt us, not simply offend us, and get the hell out of the way pretty much the remainder of the time.[3] Making such fashionista pronouncements violates my libertarian sensibilities.

So, yes, I have double standards here. And I'm not about to rationalize any of these double standards by claiming that they really aren't. Yes, they really are.

What I'm going to say about it is: so what? Double standards are part of one's daily life. Everyone's daily life. I'm no different, and don't see why I should pretend to be – or why I should be expected to be.

My personal tastes, and not my political sensibilities, dictate my daily life.

My political sensibilities declare that homosexuality is perfectly fine and natural – even if confined to a self-limiting and one-digit percent minority. My personal taste runs to chicks. So therefore I'm straight. I'm not going to be a "political queer". This isn't hard to figure out.

My political sensibilities run to free speech; my personal taste wants peace and quiet. So when you wish to freely speechify around me and on my time, you're eventually going to be asked, in decreasingly polite terms, to take your screed elsewhere. Again, not hard to figure.

So when the issue is how people dress in public, it will fall upon the same philosophy. My personal taste thinks guys who can't manage to pull their pants up are idiots, and that we ought to smack idiots upside the head. Or the wallet. Yes, my political sensibilities declare that there is nothing wrong with it. Personally, I still don't want to see it.

Since we live in a society built upon the fundamentals of Democracy, I get to have a say in what the rest of you do in public. That's the way it works, even when it "doesn't hurt anyone". I'll be the first to concede that it doesn't hurt me to have a contingent of butt-baring dorks walking down the street in my eyeshot. I am disturbed by it, dismayed even, but not hurt. Not even really offended. If I feel strongly enough about it, I can petition my local lawmakers to pass an ordinance prohibiting that. The basis? I don't like it. Nothing more is needed. If the measure passes, then pull 'em up, guys.

And vice versa, by the way. Which is why, in certain places, I can't be seen "in public" with an open can of beer. Which is why I can't be caught driving down the road without wearing a seatbelt. Who am I hurting? No one. Yet I still can't do it.

Rationalize that, you "personal is political" people.

Our system of law is built upon the authority of the majority to enact laws which satisfy that majority. And, in our system of law, the majority's enacted laws are presumed valid until it is proven, not merely asserted, that the will of the majority unfairly impinges upon the established rights of the minority.

This is why city ordinances which prohibit loud radios at 4 AM are not unconstitutional, while ordinances which prohibit all radios at all times are. If you want to play your stereo loudly, do it when you're allowed to – probably between 8 or 9 AM and 9 or 10 PM.

If you want to smoke, do it where you're allowed to. Commonly at home or outside and away from main entrances.

If you don't want to pull up your pants, then leave them hanging off your knees when and where you're allowed to. Most likely at home or in the ultra-chic and uniformly nonconformist college dormitories.

Yes, you're right: all of these are double standards. So what? If the majority wants it that way, then the majority ought to be allowed to have it that way. This is still a democracy.[4]

And, conversely, if the majority doesn't want it that way, then the majority still oughta be allowed to have it the way they want.

The way our system works, if your actions are limited by law then you have legal recourse through the courts to eliminate the limitation. You have the burden of proof to demonstrate that the limitation is unfair in ways that courts tend to define "unfairness". My prediction: you probably wouldn't win on public pantslessness, even if you had boxers showing.

The way our system works, if your sensibilities are offended by a lack of limitation on others' actions, then you have legal recourse through the legislature to limit others’ actions. Of course, getting your legislator to do anything that you want is like moving a mountain with a teaspoon, and my prediction here is, also, you probably won't get a droopy drawers law just because you want one. Indeed, Virginia scuttled its measure – which is their business.

These are the way they should be. If you feel strongly, then call or write your legislator; if enough of you take the teaspoon to the mountain, some of the mountain will get moved. I don't feel strongly about it. I'm simply in favor. I won't be writing anything more on it. Too busy looking for Victoria’s Secret commercials.

[1] She: about a million a month. Me: zero. I’d go lower, but I’ve never seen a negative pickle.
[2] http://www.cnn.com/2005/ALLPOLITICS/02/10/droopy.pants.ap/index.html
[3] An upper-case-'L' libertarian comes with a political platform which is as collectivistly appalling as the respective Democrats' and Republicans' platforms.
[4] …although some double standards tend to make a very messy legal landscape, and need to be resolved in a consistent manner. E.g., an 18 year-old is an "adult", but can't drink or gamble. So then he isn't really an adult, is he? Figure it out, folks, one way or another. He is or he ain’t.


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