Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The right to be an idiot in private

Dan Savage thinks a right to privacy should be written into the Constitution. He makes a good point. While it should not be put into law, people also ought to have the right to be annoying in the privacy of their own homes/celebrations. From hippie-poseurs to nouveau riche walking-Jewish-stereotypes, everyone should be allowed to be a fool in private without getting judged too harshly by the outside world. Well, it's not so much that it should be a right--anyone has the right to have an opinion on anything anyone else does, public or private--but that grand, sweeping declarations of how wrong or disgusting it is to, say, be a college-educated white person living in Bushwick, or hire 50 Cent to perform at a bat mitzvah, seem a bit misguided.

The Bushwick artist-house and the rapper-led bat mitzvah are objectionable for the same reason--they involve socioeconomic and racial mixing going on in potentially but not outright offensive ways. While the Bushwick pseudo-hippies are hardly flaunting their privileged position in society, they are guilty of having (or appearing to have) more than those around them, both materially and through their race or level of education. While a super-successful black rapper and a super-successful Jewish businessman are both, well, super-successful, there's something crude and stereotype-fulfilling about the latter hiring the former to sing at a party. Even at lesser bar/bat mitzvahs, where the hired entertainment is just some random dancers, when the singing/dancing help is black and those funding it are white and Jewish, some will inevitably cringe.

No one's putting on a minstrel show (or, for that matter, a thug-themed party), no one's strutting around Bushwick in sorority sweatsuits and Longchamp bags (or so one hopes), yet any time diversity arises naturally, any time racial/socioeconomic differences are salient, people start to wonder if something's amiss. Yet in neither of these cases (Bushwick and bat mitzvah) is anything morally reprehensible going on. Should whites really not move into Bushwick because their presence--even if they themselves live in semi-squalor--might eventually lead to gentrification? Should crass, bat-mitzvah-throwing parents go out of their way to be tasteful at their own private events? Somehow it's OK to be rich and white if you are classy and restrained and don't try to move out of whichever rich, white enclave you live in, but once you embrace diversity ("gentrification") or buy goods and services and thus boost the economy while lessening your own bank account ("ostentatious"), you're out of luck.

And finally, enough with the flashy bar mitzvah exposes, already. These events are a real boon for those middle-schoolers lucky enough to know someone who knows someone who's having one. One of my happiest childhood memories is of attending a bar mitzvah at the Pierre, of a boy I'm not sure I ever met, where I not only could eat as much parmesan cheese as I wanted, from a great big wheel of it, but got asked to dance by a boy a grade older than me, bestowing infinite status on my sixth-grade self. Unlimited cheese and positive social interaction, all in a lavish setting, are about as good as it gets in junior high. Don't take that away!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Right to privacy amendment sounds suspiciously like a "right to abortion" amendment that would head off the possibility of roe v wade being overturned. Good luck selling that to anyone beyond the bluest cities.