Monday, April 14, 2014

Private vs. Public

            The banning of sagging pants, tattoos, and cursing are clearly highly charged and opinionated controversies. The main conflict I noticed in all three bans was the rights of the person wearing the sagged pants or having tattoos versus the rights of bystanders not wanting to be exposed to such things. Ultimately it boils down to the rights of individuals and it seems slightly ridiculous for the government to step in and ban things such as these in public places. I understand the desires of people who own private establishments such as the pizza restaurant in New Jersey. That is their private place of business and they should be able to set a standard of dress code. But what makes their ban different from government bans is that they are banning sagging pants in a private establishment. I was honestly shocked that various city governments felt they had the right to dictate how people dress and act in public. Many of our constitutional rights are drawn out in the first several amendments of the Constitution. My understanding of the constitution was that it was the final authority on all matters related to the personal rights of American citizens. Sure maybe it isn’t tasteful to be cursing or exposing your rear end in front of families or the average citizen; however, people in our country have the basic right to act as they please as long as their actions do not harm or discriminate against others. Personally I think sagging your pants is ridiculous, but when I see someone wearing their pants like that am I offended? Do I feel like they’re mocking or attacking me? Not in the slightest. They are simply making a fashion choice that is different from mine. I kept thinking back to L’Engle’s initial description of Aunt Beast. Aunt Beast is a character who shares no physical commonalities with Meg or anyone else in the novel; however, Meg connects with her on an extremely deep level and comes to love her as much as anyone in her own family. The takeaway lesson here is the old cliché of never judging a book by its cover. Often, when we see someone with sagged pants or tattoos we tend to make value judgments on that person. We think ‘why would they wear their pants like that?’ or ‘why would they mark up their bodies like that?’ Ultimately, it is their choice and it is their bodies. They made a conscious decision to present themselves the way they did and no one has the right to question that. Having tattoos doesn’t say anything about the values of a person, it’s actually a way for them to be individuals. Don’t we as Americans value individualism? Shouldn’t we be celebrating the right to dress as we please rather than banning it?
   I understand on one level the military’s ban on visible tattoos. The military is an establishment outside of society. When you enter the military you voluntarily adhere to its codes and regulations that often go further in restricting certain behaviors than the average society would. It is their right to demand a certain standard of appearance on behalf of their personal. What is not their right is to turn a blind eye to tattoos when recruiting men and women in times of war and then demanding that they pay for the removal of these tattoos in times of peace. The military should either demand no visible tattoos at all times or completely do away with the ban in general. What they have done since the Afghan and Iraqi war is the definition of hypocrisy.

    As we have seen all semester there is an inherent danger in banning things. When we restrict access to books, we restrict access to extremely profound sources of knowledge that would often benefit society. When we restrict the way people can dress, we restrict their ability to be individuals. Banning should only be enacted when it is clear that the book, song, or action is only detrimental to society. Banning things simply because we do not fully understand them or they seem foreign to societal norms is a very dangerous path to be treading. 

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