Friday, June 15, 2007

Interesting example of European coverage of the United States in today's La Vanguardia. Washington correspondent Eusebio Val, who is normally pretty reasonable, puts up a softball piece today on page 12 of the international section. It's old news by now, at least three or four months, but some dinky little town in Louisiana banned wearing droopy pants that let your underwear show.

Now, this is not precisely big news.

Val does point out that the black mayor of the town denied that the measure was racist, as it's mostly black kids who dress like this; he's backed by the local black Baptist churches. But then he has to get all analytical, and this is where he slides off into bogosity.

Quoth Val, "The controversial law against droopy pants is a symptom of the complicated and often contradictory relationship between the Americans and questions of sex and morality." Huh? It's a little town in the middle of nowhere, not the whole country we're talking about here.

Addeth Val, "The problem goes back to the Puritan origins of the nation." I don't think the Puritans ever had much influence in Louisiana. Catholics, Baptists, Cajuns, Creoles, New Orleans ethnics, blacks, and rednecks add up to a state where they sell daiquiris at drive-through bars and where a governor once won re-election on the slogan "Vote For The Crook."

He continues, "The United States is the world's largest producer of pornographic material." Yeah, that makes sense, since we're the world's largest producer of a lot of things, including anything related to Internet.

"However, there is enormous shyness (pudor) to show certain things, and it is unthinkable to see at newsstands covers of magazines showing skin, TV programs with nudity, or topless women at the beach." I always thought that the rule was that public life is PG-rated and that private life is most distinctly rated between R and NC-17. Reason: We have a lot of people from a lot of places with a lot of different ideas, so don't embarrass other people with your own selfish behavior. Behavior that a sizable minority objects to should be done privately--don't bug the Baptists by pulling out your peter at the public pool as if you were in Germany or something. Suntan nude in your own back yard. If you want to look at skin mags, buy them and take them home with you. If you want to see sex on TV, get cable. If you want to go topless at the beach, go to a topless beach. But don't make a spectacle of yourself; that's in poor taste.

"Such an extreme is reached that it is even very difficult to find in the shops skirts for girls which do not have underpants attached inside so that their panties cannot be seen." Wait a minute. I didn't know or care about this, and I sure hope Mr. Val knows about it because he has a three-year-old daughter. If not, he shows an unhealthy interest in the subject. By the way, there's sort of a difference between this "extreme" and, say, the burka.

Then, on page 14, the next news page, there are a few international briefs, obviously much less important than the droopy-pants law in Assboink, Louisiana. One is merely a quote from the Dalai Lama in Australia: "Whether it's intentional or not, cultural genocide is happening. Without a Tibetan people, our language and culture will disappear in less than fifteen years." The second's headline is, "North Korea: Death penalty for mobile phone users." It continues, "Pyongyang has increased public executions of users of mobile phones and those who send information out of the country. The North Koreans are prohibited from communicating with the rest of the world, but some manage to listen to foreign news and use mobile phones using Chinese communications systems."

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