Wednesday, August 23, 2006

What is it about Americans and nudity?

The Boston Globe reports that politicians in Brattleboro, Vermont are in an uproar. As if politicians are ever in any other state. It seems that in one area of the downtown area some people sunbath nude. Horror, shock, terror, strikes the hearts of American citizens from coast to coast.

Apparently Vermont does not ban nudity so it is up to each city to do so and Brattleboro is now spending hours debating the ban. The proposal to ban such activity brought out five young men who stripped naked in protest of the ban. The Police Chief, John Martin, seems rather reasonable especially for a cop. He said he can't arrest anyone as there is no law and: "What's the harm? It's a problem to the extent that it bothers people, but we've always had it here."

Theresa Toney sees it differently. Mother Theresa is adamant: "This is a problem. What about children seeing this?"

Good question. What about children seeing it? In all my life I've heard people, in the US, getting hysterical about children seeing nudity. But not once have I heard anyone cite a study of any kind showing any harm. When some nudists set up a camp for their children to attend politicians got all huffed up wanting to ban it because it allowed nudity. But tens of thousands of children, in the US alone, attend naturist camps all the time without any harm done.

Brattleboro is out of the mainstream in the US but not very different from much of the Western world (outside the United States).

Take a walk through the Tiergarten, the large park in the centre of Berlin. Just a few yards from busy sidewalks and a major intersection is a wide open field and on any sunny day it is filled with hundreds of people in the nude lying in the sun. Several major walkways through the park go through this section. Now the people on the walkways tend to be dressed but a metre or two to the side that is not the case. Yet old couples stroll down the sidewalk without looks of horror on their faces. Families, parents and children, walk past the naked people and the kids don't seem shocked by any of it.

I attended a conference some years ago in Paris and stayed in a conference centre overlooking a local pool. Women there swam topless with dozens of high rises looking down on the pool. No one seemed to notice except Americans staying in the centre. There are huge streatches of beaches in much of Europe where nudity is common place. And no one seems to die because of it. Crime doesn't escalate. But in the US there is this fury that rises from the mere thought of people having naked bodies. One wag described the US obsession with the topic this way: "Take off you clothes and walk down an American street with a machete in one hand and an Uzi in the other, firing away randomly and someone will call the police to complain that there is a naked person outside."