Generalities and specifics

To purloin a metaphor from a legal gladiator I once knew, Ashland's capacity for buttering mouse doo-doo seems boundless. As example, we have the present "debate" about public nudity. This actually parallels closely the debate some months ago about the sanctity of cougar life. As opposed to children's lives. Once again, it is children who best provide a litmus test, and who are most at risk.

There seems to be a tendency here, at best, to attempt imposing generalities on very particular circumstances. At worst, these are not even generalities but merely poorly conceived abstractions, someone's vague notions of how things "ought" to be.

In the case of the cougars, we had people beguiled by the natural beauty of the animal, and its fittingness in its native habitat. So intoxicating were these impressions to some that all sight was lost of the fact that cougars are strict carnivores, predators who cannot survive save by killing other animals. They are not even omnivores, or scavengers, like bears, who themselves can be dangerous enough in an urban context. Children are most at risk.

Similarly, in the case of public nudity it is small children who are most at risk. Other aspects aside, this stems from the fact that an official policy endorsing public nudity acts as a magnet for predators, this time of the human variety. We already have dedicated pedophiles in Ashland.

Of course, it is well known that the great majority of child sex abuse is inflicted by relatives, family friends and school and religious authorities. So what? It is also very well known that nationwide there are many instances of total strangers abducting, raping, torturing and killing children. How many such instances need occur in Ashland for these facts to be relevant? How about one?

As a more subtle issue, people have been wearing clothes, even in warm climes, for at least tens of thousands of years. Even the ancient Greeks and Romans, who in their art demonstrated a very keen appreciation for the potential beauty of the nude human form, male and female, generally wore clothes. Why do you suppose this is so? Even in the privacy of one's home, most people are sensitive to issues of modesty and appropriateness. To presume that this sensitivity necessarily reveals any sort of neurotic fear of human nakedness is itself the height of neurosis. It is, moreover, very shallow and tendentious thinking.

I hazard to say that social decisions must be based on real choices, not on abstractions, nor even statistical assays. Abstractions are fine, a uniquely human and often useful capacity. But in making real decisions affecting real human beings, we need to focus closer to the ground.

Aaron Corbet has lived in Ashland for 14 years.

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