The Golden Rule

By Mark Trodden | August 29, 2007 10:44 pm

I know it seems obvious, but two of today’s news stories brought home the absurdity of how people are judged.

On the one hand we have a Republican (who would have guessed?) Senator who is accused of soliciting sex in an airport men’s bathroom.

On the other is this priceless story about legislating against the wearing of too baggy clothes.

What is striking is that I don’t think the first should be news except that the Senator in question consistently votes against gay rights and gay marriage. His fellow Senators seem concerned with the actual behavior, which I think is irrelevant, and unconcerned with his hypocrisy, which I think is abhorrent.

But the individuals involved in the second story seem to ignore completely the behavior of the persons wearing the dangerously low-riding jeans. Even those defending these loose-legged louts seem to miss the point:

“The focus should be on cleaning up the social conditions that the sagging pants comes out of,”

No, the focus should be on how they behave, not on what they wear.

Being a good citizen is about how you behave to others – what rights you support or try to deny them, or how you treat them – not about how you choose to meet sexual partners or about how you dress.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Human Rights, News
  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/sean/ Sean

    Except for the minor issue of subject/verb agreement (should be “conditions that the sagging pants come out of”), that is one of the most awesome quotes ever. I’m going to start using it in all sorts of circumstances.

  • Ellipsis

    “You put the pants on? Who told you to put the pants on? I didn’t tell you to put the pants on. Why’d you put the pants on? You haven’t even been to see the lawyer. If your gonna put the pants on, let a lawyer put the pants on….”

  • Jack

    “Except for the minor issue of subject/verb agreement (should be “conditions that the sagging pants come out of”), that is one of the most awesome quotes ever. I’m going to start using it in all sorts of circumstances.”

    Me too. It’s an excellent unintentional parody of liberal “let’s seek the root cause in the oppression of the underclass” approaches to all law-and-order questions.

  • John Ramsden

    Several US states, including Virginia, introduced laws against so-called “droopy drawers” a while ago – For example see http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/4249831.stm

  • Ellipsis

    some more fine in-depth Larry Craig story journalism. gotta love wide-stance Larry’s “NASTY, BAD, naughty boy” quote on Meet the Press. yeah baby.

  • Pingback: Mark Trodden concerning the Golden Rule of bathroom sex « Bob Dudesky()

  • http://evolutionarydesign.blogspot.com/ island

    What is striking is that I don’t think the first should be news except that the Senator in question consistently votes against gay rights and gay marriage. His fellow Senators seem concerned with the actual behavior, which I think is irrelevant, and unconcerned with his hypocrisy, which I think is abhorrent.

    um… Mark, are you saying that he should not vote the interests of the majority that elected him?

    Hail to the suicide politician… lol

  • jw

    Gotta feel sorry for the undercover officer who nabbed Craig. What a rotten job he’s got, based on smell alone. That’s what happens when you don’t stay in school.

  • Haludza

    Isn’t Craig’s job though to represent the majority views of the people he represents (however strange), which don’t necessarily coincide with his own views or views consistent with the lifestyle he’d like to lead?

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/mark/ Mark

    7 and 9. I understand your points, but I’m guessing he didn’t run on a platform of “I like to solicit gay sex in airport bathrooms but vote for me and I promise to beat down those queers every chance I get.”

  • l4n3

    No, he didn’t — run on a platform of “I like to solicit gay sex in airport bathrooms but vote for me and I promise to beat down those queers every chance I get.”

    But he did run on his “family values”; his wife, his kids, his marriage. He didn’t let everyone know he was engaging in criminal activity (soliciting for sex from strangers in public places is a crime, that’s what he was charged with and (sort of) plead guilty to).

    If he had run as an openly gay/bi man, this wouldn’t be news, but he didn’t, did he? Why that is (oppression, personal conflict, professional aspirations) we need not go into, but he did deceive his constituents and commit a crime and that’s news.

    And this is hardly a “republican” issue. Anyone remember McGreevey(D) of New Jersey?

    And finally, one can be gay and not support the Left’s legislative agenda for homosexuals, that does not make that person a hypocrite or “inauthentic”, that makes them a free thinker who has drawn different conclusions about what is good and bad for America as a whole and homosexuals in America. (I’m not saying that’s the case here, I’m saying that is a possible alternative that should not be ignored or hand-waved away).

    Love the site

  • http://blumensacha.wordpress.com Sacha

    Good post, Mark. “Lewd behaviour” (if it was “lewd”) isn’t a reason to resign from the Senate – the “crime” is really just a minor personal matter, if that. Of course, it is an issue if he was soliciting for sex and voting against gay rights in public, but this is just a matter of hypocrisy, nothing more. How about something a little more substantial, or is that asking too much?

    And about baggy pants – are these so offensive that they have to be outlawed? Baggy pants to me are tasteless, but it’s a matter of personal preference, and not the province of the state. Why does the state have to legislate on how baggy one’s pants can be?

  • Anne

    When you have a moral system that tries to make allowance for a whole spectrum of different moral systems – one that allows you to consider Orthodox Jews, evangelical Christians, and atheists moral if they follow their own moral codes even though those moral codes are in conflict with one another – hyposcrisy becomes the really serious crime. You can’t condemn someone for trying to make homosexuality illegal again because maybe their moral system makes that moral. But you can condemn someone for claiming homosexuality should be illegal and then going out and having homosexual sex, because they’re not even following the moral code they claim to support. So hypocrisy is the one thing it’s really safe to criticise.

    Of course, there are moral codes that consider hypocrisy a minor failing at worst – that teach you to condemn sin but acknowledge that you are weak and will commit it sometimes anyway.

  • http://evolutionarydesign.blogspot.com/ island

    Not so fast… Mark may have a point:

    Speaking of hypocrits, Ted Kennedy is a Catholic, and Catholics traditionaly do not support abortion or birth control of any kind, but On The Issues notes that Kennedy started voting for abortion and related issues after abortion became legal:

    :He voted YES on expanding research to more embryonic stem cell lines.

    :Voted NO on notifying parents of minors who get out-of-state abortions.

    :Voted YES on $100M to reduce teen pregnancy by education & contraceptives.

    :Voted NO on criminal penalty for harming unborn fetus during other crime.

    :Voted NO on banning partial birth abortions except for maternal life.

    :Voted NO on maintaining ban on Military Base Abortions.

    :Voted NO on banning human cloning.

    By far, the bigger question has to be on the voters of his district… “to re-elect a police manipulating murderer, or not?” Hypocracy must be all the rage among politicians and voters since they continually do exactly that…

    Massachusetts has a population of more than three million, and 1,373,752 of them are Catholics.

    So I’m actually a little surprised that republican leaders haven’t nominated Larry Craig for president of the senate!

    Or am I somehow comparing apples to oranges?

  • http://countiblis.blogspot.com Count Iblis

    Being a good citizen is about how you behave to others – what rights you support or try to deny them, or how you treat them – not about how you choose to meet sexual partners or about how you dress.

    Conservative Americans don’t agree with this. Their point of view on these issues is close to that of Iranian Mullahs. :)

  • John Ramsden

    I can’t resist a vaguely on-topic Winston Churchill story. One day when Churchill was prime minister, back in the 1950s, a civil servant ventured into his office and hesitatingly announced news that seemed likely to be very badly received.

    “Sir, I’m afraid one of your cabinet colleagues was found in Hyde Park last night in a compromising position – with a guardsman.”

    The expected explosion didn’t materialize, and after a pause as he puffed on his cigar Churchill replied “Cold last night wasn’t it?”.

    “Coldest night for ten years I believe, sir”.

    “Makes you proud to be British”.

  • Stevie

    I really like this post. And the baggy pants law, or whatever theyre trying to do, is so ridiculous. That just brings me back to middle school where my tank top had to have straps that were three fingers wide (then the question because “whose fingers?”).
    Anne (post #13), I really agree. It’s the hypocrisy of misleading others (the public in this case) as to your morals that is so shameful, not the morals themselves, because who is to say what is right? yet people do it all the time.

    “Being a good citizen is about how you behave to others – what rights you support or try to deny them, or how you treat them – not about how you choose to meet sexual partners or about how you dress.” — good man.

  • Andythebrit

    I’ve heard that Churchill story too, except that the minister had been exposing himself in Hyde Park.
    Churchill said, “Exposing himself?”
    “Yes, Prime Minister.”
    “In ten degrees of frost?”
    “Yes, sir.”
    Puff, puff.
    “Fellah deserves a medal.”

    Otherwise — you’ve got to think that risk of discovery was part of the kick for Craig. I mean, can you think of a place with more police presence than an airport?

  • Andythebrit

    14, I think you are comparing apples to dolphins.

  • http://name99.org/blog99 Maynard Handley

    “What is striking is that I don’t think the first should be news except that the Senator in question consistently votes against gay rights and gay marriage. His fellow Senators seem concerned with the actual behavior, which I think is irrelevant, and unconcerned with his hypocrisy, which I think is abhorrent.

    I really don’t understand the reaction here.
    Sure, the fact that the guy is a senator is part of the story, but the bulk of the story is “a**hole gets his comeuppance”. That’s always a good story, and always has been.

    It would have been just as newsworthy, and just as satisfying, if, rather than being a senator he had been, I don’t know, a basketball player who is constantly going on about the evils of gaydom.

    As for the reaction to baggy clothes, without approving or disapproving, I would point out that Jonathan Haidt has done considerable work on this subject.
    Long story short, he concludes that one dimension of our mutual interaction is what he calls “divinity”, the idea being that we approve of “things” (a catchall term) that make us “better people” (again a vague term) and disapprove of (more specifically feel disgust towards) things that make us “less human”. This is a rather vague framework, but is filled in with specific example of the areas in which this attitude kicks in. One of these areas is body “outline” (I forget the exact word he uses), with disgust kicking in at bodies that don’t conform to what we expect bodies to be.
    I suspect that some of this attitude towards baggy clothing (and likewise for moslem attitudes to clothes) is driven by this sort primal emotion rather than the trendier explanations of racism and sexism.

  • http://orbum.net/mark Mark

    14 – Or am I somehow comparing apples to oranges?

    Yes, pretty much. Imagine a black man paining his skin white, then working hard to keep blacks sitting at the back of the bus, and unable to marry white people — you get closer then to what’s actually going on.

  • http://name99.org/blog99 Maynard Handley

    “Isn’t Craig’s job though to represent the majority views of the people he represents (however strange), which don’t necessarily coincide with his own views or views consistent with the lifestyle he’d like to lead?”

    Isn’t this some sort of perversion of republicanism? If this is, seriously, the way the bulk of US society thinks, I think we now have a definite date on when the whole concept of democracy in the US ran off the rails.
    If we want the society run this way, why bother with representatives at all? Let’s get rid of congress and do everything through phone polls.

    Craig’s job is to act as a LEADER for his constituents. To the extent that he has very different views from them, they can get rid of him and elect someone else, but when you’re voting for someone, you’re voting on the idea that you like thhis person (or at least like him the best of a bad bunch) and want him to do what’s best in Congress — best sometimes being best for your district, sometimes being best for your state, sometimes being best for the US, and sometimes being best for the human race.

  • http://evolutionarydesign.blogspot.com/ island

    Yes, pretty much. Imagine a black man paining his skin white, then working hard to keep blacks sitting at the back of the bus, and unable to marry white people — you get closer then to what’s actually going on.

    You mean like, if Ted Kennedy was to say that he was a good confirmed, communion receiving Catholic, but then turn around and vote to allow people to murder babies?

    I don’t believe that, I’m simply making the point that somebody of faith might make.

    We may not think that it’s just as bad, Mark, but that’s us.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/mark/ Mark

    Just for clarity, please note there are two “Mark”‘s here.

  • http://evolutionarydesign.blogspot.com/ island

    Oh good grief, I didn’t realize that. Thanks for the clarification, CVMark.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/mark/ Mark

    Not a big deal – I wosn’t horrified by any comments by anyone – just wanted to clarify so that one could follow the thread. Cheers,

  • http://orbum.net/mark Mark R.

    Hehe. Changed my name to Mark R. instead for clarity too — sorry about the confusion there, Marcus.

    23 – Island

    Naw, it’s not really the same. But I certainly see where you’re coming from. I find it hard to imagine people, religious or not, being unable to discern the sheer scale of the differences.

    I mean, race and sex is pretty fundamental to us, individually. Religious beliefs are a little more fluid.

    That doesn’t mean you can’t be duplicitous with your religious convictions as well. But in the case of Catholics and contraception / abortion — well, I think there are people who believe different things even within Catholicism.

    If you want to make a Duplicity Scale of 0-10

    1. Black man paints himself white and does all he can to keep black people in the backs of buses and doesn’t all the offense to God of a black man marrying a white woman. — that rates pretty high on the duplicity scale.

    2. Gay man does all he can to make sure that other gay men are societally squashed. — very high, but probably not as high

    3. Christian man allowing a woman to choose to have an abortion. Christian man supporting the killing of people with guns. — gosh, you tell me.

    I mean, for this guy it’s a little sad, more than anything. After all, here’s a man who likes other men’s fun bits. But he got married. Maybe he was bi, and chose a straight lifestyle, but those fun bits are just too fun. And maybe he really hated that part of himself, for whatever, dare I say crazy, reason. And in a strange and ironic way, he devotes a good deal of effort to hurt people who are like himself. Maybe he wants gay people to have to sneak around in bathrooms or something. Or maybe he just wishes he wasn’t that way, and that nobody was. The man’s obviously confused.

    But it does reveal the larger issues. It’s just really sad it has to be that way for him — and for so many others. And sadder still that he does all he can to keep it sad like that.

    Kennedy may be Catholic, and the Pope may say that contraception and abortion are sins, but I know you can find widespread disagreement even within the Catholic Church on those issues, and exceptional cases, too. In other words, it’s not at all surprising to find a Catholic that might disagree with doctrine.

    But it is a little surprising to find someone who wants to oppress themselves.

  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modal_realism Neil B.

    Basically, but there eventually gets to a point where clothing (or lack of) becomes too distracting or jarring to let pass. BTW: Is it really right or fair or justified that men get to go bare chested in casual public/beach etc, but women don’t?

  • Jason Dick

    Well, Neil, girls aren’t really attracted to guys’ chests (the butt is apparently the body part of choice). Women’s breasts, on the other hand, are extremely sexually attractive to most men. A better question, perhaps, is why we choose to hide the sexually attractive parts of our bodies behind clothing. But given that we do this in our culture, it is no surprise that women aren’t supposed to run around topless.

  • http://messiestobjects.typepad.com/messiestobjects_blogviati/ messiestobjects

    The Cruising Senator obviously is disgusted with his own homosexuality, which is why he attempts to satisfy his dirty urge by attempting to solicit anonymous hot gay toilet stall pony rides.

    I think it may be harsh to judge him hypocritical because it’s likely that he truly does hate homosexuality, especially because of his own uncontrollable urges, and his fight as a senator against mano y mano love is a larger representation of his own fight with his own inner ass-ramming demons.

    Hypocritical? Probably not. Conflicted, self-hating, confused, in denial, and in the wrong line of work? Definitely. But doesn’t this describe the majority of politicians anyway?

    And about the baggy pants thing… nobody’s mentioned a certain point yet, and whether that’s because it’s largely unknown or because it’s common knowledge and it’s gauche to bring it up as a universally known fact and irrelevant to the proceedings, I’m not sure. However, the baggy pants fashion trend began in prison. When a prisoner unbuckled his belt and let his pants slide down under his butt cheeks and walked around like that, it meant he was in need of protection and was available to be somebody’s bitch. Either that, or he was already marked as somebody’s bitch and was forced to wear his pants like that as a sign to competing suitors that this bitch is taken, I’m not entirely sure which. Anyway, baggy pants facilitated this process. Some idiot out in the ghetto got so used to being a bitch that he never altered his style, and other idiots on the outside took this to be something cool as having done time is a status thing, and so adopted the fashion without realizing how it actually started.

    Now, I’m not saying that this is a good reason to ban something that is basically a personal choice, definitely not. But perhaps the answer here for old white rich men who are afraid of young people and their scary trends is, as with so many other things, education. Start taking down all those obnoxious ‘Jesus loves you’ billboards from all over the place and replace them with ones that have a picture of someone dressed in that manner and pose the question: “Does this mean you want to be the white man’s societal prison bitch?”

  • uro

    His fellow Senators seem concerned with the actual behavior, which I think is irrelevant, and unconcerned with his hypocrisy, which I think is abhorrent.

    I am personally not interested in the least in either. But what I find astonishing is this paragraph in the newspaper piece you link to,

    Mr. Craig, 62, was arrested June 11 at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport by an undercover police officer investigating sexual activity in a men’s room.

    Undercover police officers investigating sexual activity in airport’s bathrooms? What the heck does that mean? I wonder what kind of society could that be…. Laws about underwear? I don’t think even gulags reached that level of police control…

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/mark/ Mark

    I’m interested in his hypocrisy, because as a senator, the bigoted policies he pushes make the society in which I live a less pleasant place.

    As for the undercover police officers. Well, as an occasional user of them, I’d prefer not to have to deal with guys having sex in there while I’m peeing, so I guess I favor discouraging people from doing it. However, I do think that homophobia in society often forces people to do such things. But whatever the answer, I think it is perhaps a little over the top to suggest that a society in which that takes place is more oppressive than the gulags.

  • http://evolutionarydesign.blogspot.com/ island

    Is it really right or fair or justified that men get to go bare chested in casual public/beach etc, but women don’t?

    There definintely should be a law against at least *some* of them doing it… ;)

  • uro

    I think it is perhaps a little over the top to suggest

    Agreed. It was meant as a figure of language. My point was in fact more practical.

    Airports be controlled by police and that includes bathrooms, where bombs might be hidden. And if officials in their routine rounds catch people using bathrooms as hides for unlawful activities like drug dealing or offensive behavior, they must do their duty. I’m not particularly sympathetic to people having sex in public places.

    But, undercover agents investigating sexual activity in airport bathrooms?. That means using people’s money to pay the salary of a guy dedicated exclusively to sitting there waiting for something to happen. That’s what I find astonishing. The specificity of purpose, and the full time dedication, and all the money that’s invested in what seems more an obsessive neurotic behaviour than public service.

  • http://orbum.net/mark Mark R.

    Yes, it really is strange having police spending their time and resources trying to find people who want to have sex them. It’s got to be an interesting ego thing for them.

    It would be a little distracting with people having sex all over the place in public, though. We’d be more like those Bonobo monkeys. Oh, I’m sorry I took your parking space. Let’s have sex and make it all better.

    For me it’s interesting to see what people reveal about themselves in their condemnations. These saggy pants, and their underwear showing… it makes me feel all funny… it’s just that I find they make me think of sex. Or the person who knows without a doubt that being gay is a choice — so you have gay feelings too? And you’ve decided to be straight?

    Going to the short of Wikipedia, I thought it might good, too, to see what hypocrisy was:

    “Nils Brunsson asserts that inconsistent social demands and norms require organizations to speak one thing to the public, but do another in private–to falsely present themselves to their environment in a way that is a pretense, a lie in regards to the realities of internal operation and action.”

    I suppose it can be a strength. Or it could be self-doubt and cowardice.

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Cosmic Variance

Random samplings from a universe of ideas.

About Mark Trodden

Mark Trodden holds the Fay R. and Eugene L. Langberg Endowed Chair in Physics and is co-director of the Center for Particle Cosmology at the University of Pennsylvania. He is a theoretical physicist working on particle physics and gravity— in particular on the roles they play in the evolution and structure of the universe. When asked for a short phrase to describe his research area, he says he is a particle cosmologist.

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