WE at the Freethinker deplore gratuitous intrusions into people lives, and interference with their lifestyle choices.
If, for example, a prominent politician or a captain of industry – or even a Roman Catholic archbishop – is found thrashing about naked with two latex-clad ladyboys in a tub full of warm, buttered linguini, that’s his business, and no-one else’s.
But Christian busybodies simply don’t get it. Constantly fretting that someone, somewhere might be having more fun they are ever likely to experience (on Earth, at any rate), they have, over the ages, embarked on all manner of crusades to try and make people every bit as miserable as they are.
But things are changing – for the worse.
These “moral crusaders” – or “decency campaigners” – are now somehow managing to enlist the support of “we-know-what’s-best-for-you” civic leaders, as well as the forces of law and order.
For some months now we have been following reports from the US that some authorities, egged on by religious leaders and commentators, have been working themselves into a quite bizarre frenzy over jeans worn at half-mast by young men.
Such was the moral panic generated that laws have now been passed to nip this trend in the butt.
In Riviera Beach, Florida, for example, local police are now able to act on the so-called “saggy pants” law that was put on the books in March, but only came into force last week after a legal hitch was overcome.
According to the Christian Post, the southeast Florida city had adopted the controversial ordinance just months after nearby Opa-locka became one of the first US cities to ban saggy pants in certain public areas.
In a triumphant tone that suggested nothing less than the Second Coming of Jesus to his town, rather than a crappy, mean-minded little law, Riviera Beach Mayor Thomas Masters trumpeted:
It’s going to be a new day, a great day. We hope our young people have gotten the message loud and clear that it is against the law in this city to walk around indecently.
Well, hallalujah, brothers and sisters – the fashion police are in town and on mission to crush anyone who dares offend citizens’ sense of aesthetics!
Some – such as the Rev Jerry Young of New Hope Baptist Church in Jackson, Mississippi, where an ordinance has been proposed to make it illegal to wear pants below the waistline “as to expose one’s underwear” – say it’s a matter of morality.
Thundered the good reverend:
It’s indecent and improper and our wives, mothers, daughters and sisters in the community don’t want to see it.
Note the absence of offended men.
OK, let’s face it, pants hanging half-way down your arse is not a particularly good look – and sometimes appears more like a cry for help than a cool fashion statement.
But then, again, a burqua is not a good look either. Wafting about in a black, one-woman tent like a character from Scary Movie will do a lot more to scare the shit out of a kid than any butt-crack flash.
So should people be penalised for exposing their CKs or Aussiebums – fashion statements in their own right?
They certainly thought so in the town of Flint, Michigan, where the police chief, David R Dicks, appears to have overlooked the obvious fact that people wearing “saggies” simply cannot run fast – if at all.
If any “saggy” commits a felony, then tries to leg it, chances are that they will fall flat on their face, thereby facilitating an easy arrest. (I recently saw this happen to a youth in the town where we live, but in this case he wasn’t fleeing the law – he was trying to run for a bus.)
We believe that “saggies” are fully aware of the pitfalls of mixing crime and low-slung pants, and will wear something far more practical if they are planning a fast get-away from any liquor store or bank they intend robbing.
But instead of considering the obvious crime-reducing properties of saggy jeans, Dicks said wearing pants halfway down, or even below the buttocks is itself “a crime”.
A crime? What, simply for breaching the laws of gravity, which these low-slung pants so clearly do?
Dicks says “saggies” are in violation of the city’s disorderly conduct ordinance – which can give police probable cause to search wearers of “offensive” pants for weapons or drugs. Individuals are liable to imprisonment for up to 93 days in jail, plus a $500 fine.
The sparks are now flying in Flint. The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan is outraged by the new law – and declared, in a letter to Dicks, that the right to wear saggy pants is protected by the US Constitution.
The letter called for an immediate end to the stopping and searching of individuals with low-riding pants, and ACLU said it would be willing to represent in federal court any Flint resident who has been or has had a “legitimate fear” of being stopped, threatened or charged under the ordinance.
ACLU pointed out the new policy gives police authority to conduct unconstitutional searches and seizures, promotes racial profiling, violates due process and interferes with individuals’ freedom to express themselves in their appearance.
Said Michael J Steinberg, legal director of Michigan ACLU.
Given that Flint has one of the highest crime rates in the country, you would think the police chief would be fighting crime instead of the latest fashion fad.
It is not the job of the police officer to enforce his idea of what dress is appropriate when no crime is being committed.
Steinberg said the ACLU would prefer not to go to court but was prepared to do so.
People should be concerned when police officers go up to individuals and lift up their shirts to expose young men’s boxer shorts and claim that they’re acting indecent. There’s nothing different between that and lifting up women’s skirts to expose their underwear and charging them with indecent exposure.
He cited exposed bra straps or slips as comparable fashion faux pas that would not warrant police searches and citations.
It’s another matter if you can see their naked buttocks … but it is not a crime to wear sagging pants where boxers are exposed.
We in the UK complain often and loud about the continuous erosion of our civil liberties by battalions of snooping do-gooders, but the US is as much – if not more – a victim of rampant nannyism as we are here. And their silly regulations are often enforced at the point of a gun.
Check out this video for proof.