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February 15, 2004 The Puritan Dialogs: From Houston to Paris via Boston

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I guess this all started as all of us were trading email regarding Janet Jackson and the Super Bowl and all that stuff.


Bonnie is Boston started it:


Pardon for the non sequitur, but I've been unplugged this week while my study got painted and I wanted to weigh in on the superbreast experience.


Having grown up a Steelers fan in the mighty, mighty '70's, I was munching Cheesits, drinking Sam Adams and happily, if nervously, watching the Patriots have their day in the sun (although I turned to CNN for the MoveOn.org ads at the appointed hour; they came late and so I missed even more of the stupid CBS advertising, ha!).


OK, it was jaw-droppingly astonishing to see JJ's tittie, however pretty.  But what I, for one, haven't heard in the aftermath, is any discussion of the sexual politics of the thing.  Perhaps it's all too obvious for comment, but wasn't the song about "Gimme, gimme, gimme what I want" from Justin, and provocatively, "No, no, or at least not yet" from Janet?  And then what does any self-respecting cute-boy do when he knows no doesn't mean no?  He takes what he wants and rips clothes off to get it, of course.  Much more offensive than Janet's fulsome knocker!!


Then, several days later, it occurred to me that not only had he taken her by force, but also that he's a white man and she's a black woman.  Celebs both, but the racial politics of the thing are also pretty disgusting, if oh so familiar.  Is anybody else talking about this?


Of course they were.


I replied with this:


Yep.  There is a mixture of race and rape here.  I don't know why more is not being said about this.


But Colin Powell's son, who is pretty much Black when he chooses to be, is plenty mad.  As you know he somehow got the job of running the Federal Communications Commission, the FCC.  I guess he had connections.  Anyway, it seems he seriously considered revoking the broadcast license of CBS-Viacom.  You know, shut them down and close their doors.  No more CBS or Sixty Minutes, no more MTV.  No more sit-coms.  No Dan Rather.  Sell off the assets to Fox.  That sort of thing.


Comedy Central would be gone too, along with "The Daily Show" - and I like John Stewart.


A cool idea!  I copied Rick Brown, "the news guy," as he'll get a kick out of this.


And Rick took the bait.


A correction: Something that always gets lost in these stories is that neither broadcast networks (such as CBS), nor network owners and cable networks (of which Viacom is both), operate under FCC broadcast licenses.  The threat the FCC holds over them is that (a) networks do, however, tend to have a few "owned and operated" stations (called O&O's) that do have FCC licenses that can be taken away, but more likely would be fined, and (b) network affiliates threatened with fines for carrying sanctioned network programming can put lots of pressure on their network.


I'd also venture that even thinking seriously about selectively revoke a broadcaster station's license would be a risky adventure, especially in an election year.  Since it's never done, there'd have to be a damned good reason that holds water way beyond the pale of partisan politics, and this one wouldn't pass that test.


And Comedy Central and others in the Viacom cable stable are pretty much beyond the direct reach of the FCC.  So, Alan, you can forget that list you compiled, since none of those operate under FCC's jurisdiction.  (FCC has some say over the operation of the cable systems that carry cable network programs, but I think mostly in the area of determining what rates they're allowed to charge.  But as I understand it, they have no power to shut any down.)


Regarding Boobs:


Bonnie, I agree that this is an interesting angle!  Maybe hardly anyone has been talking about it because many of us were not aware of the lyrics of the song they were dancing to - not having watched it live, I have only the news clips to refer to, which always includes some anchor or reporter voicing over the picture.  (Newsclips is also why, unlike yourself, I'm not in a position to judge whether Janet's tits are all that good looking.  They seem pretty digitized and boxy to my eyes.)


And I suppose this "rape" concept does work, at least within the context of the lyrics.  You have a good point.  Still again, in the "public" subtext of this story -- and this assumes the validity of Timberlake's implication that Jackson knew what was going to happen and that he did not (something which, admittedly, may be a stretch) -- there would then be this question of who was the "rapist" and who the "victim."  I must admit -- and folks can feel free to call me calloused and unfeeling here -- but I find it hard to care either way.


But I'd also guess the white-on-black part of this not being much gist for discussion could be a good sign, in that these days, maybe we've gotten so used to blacks and whites being seen as sexual partners, legitimate or otherwise, that most folks don't even consider it worth bringing up.


Personally, however, I see this whole thing as mostly another case of somebody else (and a member of the Jackson family! Whodda thunk it?) finding a way of forcing themselves into the public consciousness, all in the name of fame and/or fortune.  As if we don't have real problems to be concerned with these days, we're forced into wasting precious brain cells mulling the activities of the latter-day equivalent of flag-pole sitters.




Fine.  Then Steph from London, Ontario, Canada added this:


So was this just a historical re-enactment of Strom Thurmond's early years then?  (Sorry folks, couldn't help it.)


Any truth to what I heard that before they started the song (or maybe in the lyrics), this Timberlake kid also set the whole thing up by actually saying "I'm gonna have you naked before this song's over" or something to that effect?


And Phillip in Georgia:


'Twas merely a "let's be naughty in that young rock-n-roll kind of way," or so it seems to me.  Larger implications of the "Perfect Strom" Thurman tact may be overstated, but still thought provoking.  The distressed face of regret from Ms. Jackson and her digitized tit tempts one to believe to something may have gotten out of hand. 


Perhaps.  But then Bonnie forwarded the undigitalized photos of Janet Jackson's performance to us all with the comment - "Sending this on makes me feel wonderfully 'naughty in that young rock 'n roll' kinda way.  :-)"


To which Rick-the-News-Guy replied:


So THAT's what all the fuss was about!


It's interesting that she doesn't seem to be working very hard to cover anything up in this shot. (Although they say, as in Martha Stewart, sometimes the cover-up can be worse than the crime.)


Wasnt there a number the film "Rocky Horror Show" where someone sang, "Damn it, Janet!" - or something like that?  Surely her boob is not this important.  So I forwarded an item from the UK:


Transatlantic Allies Poles Apart Over Breasts       

Byline - Paul Majendie,  Mon Feb 9, 8:18 AM ET


LONDON (Reuters) - Britain and the United States stand shoulder to shoulder in war and peace -- but when it comes to breasts on television, the two cultures are poles apart.


When U.S. singer Janet Jackson bared her breast in the Super Bowl special earlier this month, 200,000 television viewers complained about the flash of flesh in her duet with Justin Timberlake.


A Tennessee woman has even sued, saying millions of people are owed monetary damages for exposure to lewd conduct.


In Britain by contrast, a quarter of the population has been glued to the television for two weeks as scantily clad model Jordan paraded her surgically enhanced breasts in a reality TV show set in the Australian jungle.


The tabloids have devoted acres of newsprint to Jordan's ample attributes.


Even Queen Elizabeth is reported to be a keen fan of "I'm A Celebrity ... Get Me Out Of Here" in which a string of D-list celebrities are brought together in a camera-filled camp, to be voted out by viewers one by one. The winner will be crowned King or Queen of the Jungle Monday.


The British are amused by Jordan. The Americans were shocked and appalled by Jackson.


Why the yawning cultural divide?


"You have got to remember there is a long tradition of Americans being a tad more starchy about nudity than the Europeans," said Patrick Tyler, London bureau chief of the New York Times.


"There is something 'Mom and Apple Pie' about Super Bowl night. There is a standard adhered to that is particularly Middle America. Janet Jackson undermined that standard with that goofy stunt dressed up as an accident," he told Reuters.


"Jordan v Janet: whose breast is best?" asked Zoe Heller, New York columnist for Britain's Daily Telegraph who shook her head in astonishment over the Jackson controversy.


"America is officially freaked out," she said. The only person to miss out appeared to be President Bush who fell asleep in front of the television before the flash dismissed as a "wardrobe malfunction."


Jackson opted not to appear at Sunday's Grammy Awards. But Christina Aguilera, famed for her raunchy videos, was heartily sick of the furor.


"Come on," she said, sporting a pink gown with a plunging neckline she constantly checked to see she was covered. "People are bored at this point to be still talking about a boob. We all have them."


Across the Atlantic, that was very much the viewpoint of British tabloid columnist Vanessa Feltz.


"Talk about a storm in a D Cup. Janet Jackson's boob popped out at the Super Bowl and you'd have thought Justin Timberlake was doing the Lambada with Osama bin Laden, "she said.


"We celebrate cleavage, we've got a sense of humor," she added, citing the iconic status of actress Barbara Windsor for popping out of her bra in the saucy "Carry On Camping" movie.


"Now Jordan's gargantuan assets are gamely entertaining all ages and sexes simultaneously. If they accidentally-on-purpose fall out of their moorings, there'll be a massive nationwide cheer."


And, from eastern France, Joseph weighed in:


When did we get to be more prudish than the stiff-assed Brits?  Heaven help us.  Perhaps more breastage on TV, less "shockingly" displayed, until we all  grow up and get comfortable with sexuality would be in order.  Perhaps the rape figures would fall as well.


The sexual politics?  Interesting angle, but this isn't exactly owner and slave.  This is two attention-seeking millionaires playing cutesy on TV.


I'm much more interested in opinion concerning the nipple ring.  Fascinating thing, I'd say.  I can't tell if there is a piercing involved, or if the nipple must be erect for this thing to stay in place.  Presumably, Janet's are erect all the time.  Now there's a thought.


So of course this went from Boston to France:


Yes, it is the discomfort with sexuality, I agree completely.  Our Puritan heritage?  But didn't the Puritans come from England?  I imagine how very silly this 'tempest in a D cup' all looks from a French vantage point.  I believe that the Monica mess was incomprehensible to the French, and other Europeans.  And although you're also right about the celebs' playfulness, I maintain that, accidental or no, the image carries the imprint of sexual-racial assault, a profound part of our national memory and identity.  Not necessarily slavery any more, but dominance and power of the white man vis. a vis. the black woman.


As for the nipple ring, my students tell me it's a piercing.  Ooouwch, maybe that's the source of her erection.


Phillip in Georgia agreed:


The nipple ring, metallic splatter, art thing is quite a pasty.  Makes the breast look as erotic as an ear lobe or some other collection of skin cells. 


I'm sure the Brits were glad to be rid of the puritans.  I can hear it now "Yes, go, just go to America, or better yet a colony further away.  Leave us to enjoy what few pagan pleasures we have left after the church has poured cold water on our titty sucking fun.  And by the way, wearing all black doesn't make you look slimmer, just more like a guilt extruding pez dispenser."


(Note the author has no historic reference for this quote).


And that only got Rick-the-News-Guy started:


Okay, now I feel compelled (here I go again) to come to defense of the "Puritans," especially in regards to certain misconceptions (pardon the pun) concerning sex.


Logic dictates that, had the Puritans eschewed sex, they would not have survived as a colony. Think about that for a sec.  Now realize that, not only did these people "do" sex, they apparently did it with a certain abandon.  For one thing, they had fairly large families, and unlike the likes of me, they didn't "send out" (ie, "adopt") their kids, they came about them in the old-fashioned way.


Exactly what that means, I will leave to your imaginations, which is something they couldn't leave to the imaginations of their kids, since many of the earliest Puritan families lived all in the same room.  In other words, when they were finished creating one kid, they'd park it in the corner with the others where it could, from a safe distance, watch how it's all done.  And from what I hear, when these "Puritan" perverts weren't busy making babies, they were busy comparing notes about it in church.


Contrary to what many think, the "pure" in Puritan has nothing to do with sex, or even morality, it has to do with religion. The word "Puritan" was a slur used against certain Anglicans who thought that the church of England hadn't gone far enough in their break from Roman Catholicism. Puritans sought a more "pure" protestant reformation under Elizabeth, and further realized after the Stewarts came in that they weren't ever going to get it, but in fact were simply putting their necks in danger, so many of them up and left the country.


Most of these, I think, were "Congregationalists," believing that a church is not defined by some large group that was overseen by some bishop, but by the people of the local congregation. You may or not remember the Congregationalists (I was partly brought up as one, I'm proud to say) as those brave souls who formed the very core of the abolitionist movement in the early 19th century, and who were later prominent in the struggle for racial equality in this country.


I'd venture that I doubt I would want to live in an early Puritan settlement, but I don't think they were as bad as their rap today.  In fact, I think much of what we think we know of the Puritans today actually is seen through the filter of the Victorian age.


And even the Victorians, I understand, probably don't deserve much of the reputation they have today. But that's another story, and I just do't have the time.


(As you were!  Please feel free now to go about your lives!)


Phillip jumped in:


So puritan and prudish are unrelated.  Learn something new every day.  Did ten children mean having sex ten times?  Well, one can only imagine and not really know.  One thing I am sure of is that a farmhouse of puritans never looked like a group sex website from Amsterdam. There is no known example of the Puritan Karma Sutra or Zodiac position calendar that I know of.  I remember an echo in my early memory that my great grand father never saw my great grand mother completely naked.  No way to check that fact either, thankfully....


But back to the puritans not being so up tight.  How do the witch trails play into all that?  And how does the impression of the dour if not glum puritans get so seared in the collective consciousness?  Is it Disney's fault?   Well they can be redeemed by backing the emancipation movement and of course the suffrage movement.  Worthy causes no doubt, certainly not headed up by hedonist or pagans.  And making the reformation even less Catholic looking by seeking the "Purity" of reformation ideals beyond Anglicanism is a start in the right direction, but doesn't convince me the puritans were anything close to easy going about lifestyle choices.  I don't think you need to defend the puritanical properties of the puritans.  No one here is going to identify with them enough to take offense.  Now about the Victorians not seeming so Victorian.  Is that Victoria's secret?


Of course I had to jump in here!


I too was brought up a member of the dreaded Congregationalists.  In fact at one time I think I was a member of the "Young Pilgrims" - not to be confused with the "Young Pioneers" (we were not Soviets, just bored).  Yes, Rick is correct as far as the church history and etymology - or even entomology, as far I know. 


From when commeth the reputation of the Puritans as dour kill-joys?  One might read the Williams sermons or any of the religious tracts of seventeenth century New England.  It's not Disney - it's them.  They wrote about the sins of this world.  The prose is full of fire and brimstone and recrimination of sinners - with nothing on group sex at all, of course.  And the Calvinists were worse, or better, depending on your enthusiasm for such writing.  But I guess that was all for Sundays.  They did multiply.  It happens.  They were really verbose, and many.


The argument that homosexuality is a choice one makes, or at best congenital, not hereditary, follows along the same lines.  Why are "they" still here?


As for Bonnie's query about what the French must think of all this - if they do - I recommend Ric's Metropole site (www.metrpoleparis.com) for the posters he photographs each week in the kiosks and then posts on his site.  At least four each week.  The world is not like us.


To which Ric in Paris added:


The poster in question is from 1999 - Film 'Mauvais Passe,' with Daniel Auteuil, directed by Michel Blanc.  From Metropole issue 4.47 - http://www.metropoleparis.com/1999/447/447post2.html


To keep the record straight, there are people here to DO object to the sleazy tone of some the graphics shown publicly in France.  Just as there obviously are some other people who push at the limits of what is acceptable, until it pushes back.  Then a commission is appointed, to be totally forgotten two days later.


I try to separate the posters inspired by respected directors - like Michel Blanc - from others that are blatantly trying to offend.  There are some I won't run in Metropole.  Some of the 'taste' here is in the toilet.


Most posters on view here are worthless graphically.  With a new selection of maybe 12 to 20 new ones each week, sometimes it is difficult to find four that are 'good enough.'  This was the case last week.  But I'm lucky.  I'd hate to be trying to find four 'good enough' new posters a week in New York.


Has anybody else noticed Janet Jacksons face?  Doesn't she look a lot like Michael?  Maybe she is Michael.  Maybe Michael is she.  Does anybody know if she/he is a midget?


Now there's a thought!


And Bonnie from Boston jumped back in!


The meaning of puritan I intended is #2 in my American Heritage Dictionary, that is "one who regards pleasure or luxury as sinful."  The Salem Puritans forbade drinking, gambling, dancing, card-playing, hymn singing and general cavorting.  (In the witch hysteria, they went after some of the unmarried women first, including Bridgit Bishop, a widow who ran a local tavern and quite possibly might be a distant relation of mine.)


Probably the entire halftime show would have appalled them, as would much of my own activity between the ages of 18 and 30.  I maintain, it's not the boob, it's the particularly American moral outrage and discomfort with sex and pleasure that is the interesting thing about this whole non-event.  A Republican rep from New Mexico, a woman, was practically in tears of rage on tonight's news, because her children saw the halftime show.  Then later, I saw the same woman defending a liar and thief, Gee Dubya Bush.  Go figure.


So Rick-the-News-Guy came back with this:


On the more serious side...


As has been mentioned often, Puritan parents let their teenage daughters climb under the covers with their boyfriends in a dating ritual known as "bundling".  Granted, everyone was fully clothed and there was a board in between them, but in fact, the practice did sometimes result in babies out of wedlock.  But when it did, there was not always the big deal made of it that we think was made, according to Richard Shenkman's "Legends, Lies & Cherished Myths of American History":


"The strongest charges leveled against the Puritans - that they punished sex offenders brutally - is exaggerated.  Most adulterers, for instance, got off with just a whipping and a fine. In all of seventeenth-century Massachusetts only three adulterers were ever put to death. Says Edmund Morgan: 'Sodomy, to be sure, they usually punished with death; but rape [!], adultery, and fornication they regarded as pardonable human weaknesses...' "


(NB: As that famous Denisonian, Alan Pavlik, used to say, "And you call that a testimonial?")


Shenkman further includes a footnote that disputes their common anti-music, anti-art, plain-garbed stick-up-the-ass image by noting that "Puritans introduced opera to England, approved of nude statuary, and even liked to dress well ... only old Puritans wore black, drab clothes. Others wore clothes in bright colors, from 'turkey red' to 'royal purple.'"


Bonnie you maintain, it's not the boob, it's "the particularly American moral outrage and discomfort with sex and pleasure that is the interesting thing about this whole non-event."


I agree that the boob itself was not very interesting (although that star-shaped hood ornament turned out to be quite a conversation piece, didn't it?).  But we must remember that not all Americans were discomforted and outraged by this, only some of them were.


Also, I must admit, when it comes to what people find interesting about this whole thing will have to be a case of "different strokes".   I personally found the moral outrage totally predictable, but having very little to do with me.


But (and I do *not* mean to offend any in this group who disagree with me, which I suspect may include everyone) I also find the resulting discussion of "American Puritanism" to be inevitable.  Although I absolutely agreed with all those during Monicagate who argued that Americans take the sex lives of their politicians way too seriously, I also thought that if I had to listen just one more goddam time to that "holier-than-thou" story of the French premiere's mistress being allowed to attend his funeral, I would go out and kick some dog!


As I mentioned to you in an earlier response (which I guess didn't go to the group), I'm more interested in the problem of finding common ground that would allow those of us not offended by exposed boobs to share the "public square" with those who are.  Specifically, this means what we, the public, should decide what should be allowed and not allowed on the airwaves we all own, and what should be consigned to the world of "cable," which doesn't use scarce radio frequencies owned by all of us.


My point is that, although I don't agree with those nutty folks who are so easily offended by the sight of human beings in the buff, I also don't want to force them to live their lives by my rules any more than I want them to force *me* to live my life by theirs.


Somehow, I'm not convinced that the two sides can't settle on something we both can live with.  After all, if one were to find something theoretically praiseworthy about this country, it might be our at least professed ability to accommodate one large and strange mixture of animals, all living inside the same tent.




PS: A bigger and better topic of discussion, I would argue, is what I consider the offensive French ban on students wearing religious garb to school.  But I don[t really want to talk about that, either. 


So?  So I tossed another log on the fire with this:


See George Bush and the Treacherous Country by Steve Erickson


This always has been a nation caught between Cotton Mather and Tom Paine. As the New World's pre-eminent theologian, Mather wrote Memorable Providences and Wonders of the Invisible World, which marshaled passionate arguments in support of the mass executions of women for witchcraft. Paine, raised in England, where he watched starving children his own age hanged for stealing food, disavowed his Quaker religion; employing the language of the Old Testament (which he preferred to the New) in the writing of Common Sense, Paine chortled to John Adams that he had done so for reasons as perverse as they were strategic. Among others, Jefferson was impressed. Similarly impressed by Paine's later book The Age of Reason, which included an outright attack on religion, was a young Lincoln, who as a congressional candidate in 1846 was hounded by rumors regarding his lack of religious affiliation until finally he issued a statement assuring voters that, while he didn't belong to any church, he was nothing but respectful of those who did.


Over the centuries, one side or the other of the Mather/Paine divide hasn't so much held sway as overplayed its hand, beginning with the traditionalists 300 years ago in Salem. Conversely and more recently, if to less spectacular effect, in 2002 the 9th District Court of Appeals ruled the words under God in the Pledge of Allegiance a violation of the First Amendment.  First among the problems with this decision was its constitutional wrong-headedness: The First Amendment was never intended to strike from public life all reference to a supreme power.  Jefferson, the amendments guiding spirit by way of his protégé James Madison, and as hostile to organized religion as Bush is committed, made such a reference in the country's founding document.  Rather the First Amendment was intended to ensure that one religion isn't favored by the state over another, and that religious practice is neither restricted by the state nor imposed; however much public pressure occasionally is brought to bear on the issue, the Pledge of Allegiance isn't compulsory, with or without God.  But beyond constitutional considerations the 9th Court's decision was a tactical disaster, the sort that gives the separation between church and state a bad name. It played into the traditionalists' most inflammatory depiction of secularism and undercut a thousand more credible arguments of the future - so that when the day comes that Republican congressional leader Tom DeLay wants to change the pledge to read "one nation under Jesus Christ," the moral authority of the First Amendment will have been squandered on judicial reasoning specious at best and elitist at worst.


When George W. Bush found Jesus in the mid-'80s as part of a struggle with alcoholism, he was most electrified by the story of Paul's conversion en route to Damascus, as told in the Book of Acts. ...


And Rick-the-News-Guy replied:


... I find this guy's discussion of the 9th Circuit annoying.


Whether the Pledge of Allegiance is compulsory or not, it mostly is treated as such, and is seen as a kind of official pronouncement from our government that there lives somewhere in heaven a god, and moreover, the kind of god that watches over nations such as ours.  I'm sure there are loads of Americans who believe this, and also that, as seen on certain coins, there is a god somewhere in which we all trust.


I see nothing wrong with their believing this stuff, as long as they do it on their own time and not "on my nickel," so to speak.  I, too, am an American, born and raised, and I not only don't believe it, I have the right to demand that my government refrain from freelancing its own particular religious beliefs on my behalf.


The Constitutional concept of separation of church and state as pushed by Madison (Jefferson was otherwise occupied in Europe) had in mind that certain freedoms were beyond the reach of democracy - that is, that it should matter not that the majority of citizens be Anglicans, they have no right to tell the minority what to believe.  Jefferson went even further in saying that it's none of my neighbor's business if I believe in one god or one hundred gods or no god at all, since it neither does him harm nor costs him money; therefore, government should stay away from religion.  (Then why did Jefferson mention God in the Declaration?  God only knows!  But he also wrote that all men are created equal, at the same time he owned slaves.)


I think his idea that the 9th Circuit "squandered" the "moral authority of the First Amendment" is ridiculous and noticeably lacking in courage.  If Tom DeLay and his crowd ever get around to making the pledge read "Under Jesus," they are more likely to arrive at that low point in our history because citizens had chosen *not* to stand by basic American principles, rather than because we held our ground.


Then Ric in Paris clarified what really happening there:


The law against the ostentatious display of religious symbols in state schools was passed by a huge majority in the Assembly National last week.  But to get in the books, it must also be passed by the Senat.  Even if the Senat passes it - or changes it and sends it back to the Assembly National - the Constitutional Council will still look at it in the end, and if it doesnt conform to the Constitution of the French Republic, then it gets sent back to square one for a re-write.  So, the measure is not yet a 'law.'  It may not make it.


Even if it does, by using the word 'ostentatious' it can obviously be challenged to death in civil court.  If the law had been worded, 'no display of religious symbols,' then it would be cut and dried.  The word 'ostentatious' is a wide-open barn door.


The French, the elite that runs the country, as not as clever as they think they are.  In effect, practically nobody was wearing scarves before this became an issue.  Nobody knows exactly who started it.  Suddenly, all sorts of young girls 'need' to wear the scarves.  Many of their parents seem perplexed.  Many Socialists are also perplexed because there is an existing law, forbidding religious symbols in state schools, on the books, dating back to about 1905.  It has taken a really long time to get religion out of state schools - and here we go again.


The Minister of Education, during a discussion on TV, mildly suggested that beards be banned too.  And advertising on t-shirts.  This was, of course, taken seriously overnight; and immediately forgotten.  Nobody here realized that he was being ironic.


Young girls who want to wear scarves can do so everywhere in France, except in state school classrooms.  The law, if it is ever passed, will ban ALL other ostentatious display of religious symbols too - not just scarves.  Other groups with particular dress codes are worried.  And, the law may be extended to include the civil service sector - because it is a collection of Republican institutions.  Think of nurses in public hospitals. Think of lady lawyers in court.   Or judges on the bench.  Think of a Republican cop wearing a turban!  You might get away with this in a monarchy like Britain has, but not in Republican France.


Private schools exist as well, and they have their own dress codes.


Many parents who are not practicing Catholics send their kids to private Catholic schools, because they think the discipline is better.  Back in the '80s the biggest demo ever to happen in France, turned out to protest against the take-over of the Catholic schools by the state system.  More than half of the million-plus crowd were considered to be commie red Socialists - marching in Versailles, no less.  (The avenue leading up to Louis ranch is still bigger than the Champs-Elysees or the Champ de Mars.)


French money - now euros - does not have 'In God We Trust' printed on it.  Not in any language.


Finally, as in all things in France, there are 'exceptions.'  State schools in eastern France, Alsace, etc., actually have classes where religion is taught.  Apparently it goes back to the time when the area was Germany.  Baden, across the Rhine, probably has a Catholic majority.  I think there may be some other regional 'exceptions' too.


"Jefferson went even further in saying that it's none of my neighbors business if I believe in one god or one hundred gods or no god at all..." - and so it should be.  This is how it is in France with the Republican Constitution it has.


For me the big question is - how did this scarf business get started?  It isn't something that was invented by a majority belonging to any sect in France.  The obvious answer must be, it's Bushs fault.


Ha!  Of course!


The Rick-the-News-Guy reconsidered France:


Re cops and nurses wearing turbans: Youre unlikely to see that in this country, too.  I think there have been some court cases about it, with the uniform-code always winning, but Im not sure.


I must admit, I think I personally lean toward the idea that if wearing uniforms are a requirement (in schools or hospitals or the cop's beat), then the religious symbols should be overruled because they would defeat the purpose of uniforms.  But if all attendees/employees are allowed to wear civies, we shouldn't ban religious garb.  Of course, in the US, I think very few, if any, public schools require uniforms, while many private schools do.


As I understand the concept of separation of church and state in this country, particularly as it pertains to schools, government agencies such as schools must be officially prohibited from exhibiting their religious preferences, wheras students must not.  This, I think, is as it should be, although its a policy that seems to confuse so many among the citizenry here.


You say back in the '80s the biggest demo ever to happen in France, turned out to protest against the take-over of the Catholic schools by the state system.  Yipes!  Did the takeover ever succeed?  That, to me, is also frightening.


And State schools in eastern France actually have classes where religion is taught?  In my public high school (Manhasset, Long Island, New York), religion was also taught -- we learned about the ancient Egyptian and Greek gods, Zoroastrianism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity (Catholics and Protestant), Islam, Hinduism, yadda yadda -- which I have no objection to.  But we also had churches and Sunday schools, where we went to learn not so much about religion as we did about God.


As for how the scarf business got started, from what I'm hearing (from NPR and CNNs Jim Bitterman), at least some of the impetus came from a belief that many of the Muslim girls were being pressured by their families and community to wear the scarves, and that the proposed ban is some (I would say "misguided") way of protecting them.  These same reports also claim that opinion polls in France back the ban by about 70%.  Do you think this is so?


But here the week ended.  Ric in Paris will no doubt reply.


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