This story requires one to consider social mores, conservatism, government powers, libertarianism, class, classlessness, tradition, expression, subsidiarity, humility, pride and manners. In other words, it’s practically the reason Ricochet.com was created.
My beloved little city of Asbury Park, NJ made national headlines in 2010 when a local storekeeper, while attempting to drum up business, made a push for the City by the Sea to have a nude beach. The measure was ultimately rejected. That it was seriously considered at all shows how liberal Bruce Springsteen’s adopted hometown has become (of the 5,418 registered voters, only 390 are Republican).
What a difference two years makes though. Former councilwoman and Republican Committeewoman Louise Murray has found a 50-year-old ordinance on the books that says people in Asbury Park may not wear bathing suits on the boardwalk. At a recent council meeting she pleaded with the City to once again enforce it. Her plea has been picked up as newsworthy locally, regionally, and nationally now that Drudge has given it a headline. The City Council is considering her request.
I don’t know if there is a social conservative backlash to the Obama Administration going on in this country but this might actually be proof of it. Here is an exchange between Ms. Murray and Asbury Park Deputy Mayor John Loffredo as reported by a local website, www. moremonmouthmusings.net:
“I’ll be darned if I want to be standing at a bar and have somebody slither up in a Speedo or bikini that shouldn’t be in a bathing suit,” Murray said. “It’s disgraceful … I implore you to enforce this, but do not amend it.”
Deputy Mayor John Loffredo responded, “I honestly don’t disagree with you.”
Why is that exchange important? Loffredo is one of New Jersey’s first openly gay elected politicians and a Democrat. He’s a liberal. He supports Asbury Park’s annual Gay Pride Parade (and you know how they dress marching in that). Yet he doesn’t disagree with Ms. Murray about this. A shift in social mores?
A bit of history about Asbury Park for context. It was founded as a Methodist retreat in the late 1800s. It had been a dry town where certain sports were originally banned as they might attract bettors. This one-square-mile City still has nearly 40 churches. So full of elegance was it that when I was a boy people would dress up to walk downtown and women working at the local department store were forbidden from wearing pants.
Then Asbury Park declined. For a number of reasons too long to list here, it became first cousin to hell, with rampant poverty and one of the highest crime rates in New Jersey.
However, over the past ten years, Asbury Park has come back and recaptured much of the glory it once held.
[Commercial break: Come enjoy Asbury Park this summer. Beautiful beaches, 40 stores on the boardwalk, great music clubs, 2 dozen restaurants, excellent downtown shopping and more. My wife and I take the kids there often.]
Whenever you have a degraded urban area, you can guess what group of people show up and pretty-up the neighborhood: Gays. They were always here, but a steady stream of them moved in over the past decade and turned our beautiful houses, each of which had housed 30 non-English speaking people from somewhere south of Texas, back into lovely single family homes again (try the breathtaking house tour when you visit).
Now, I don’t mean to make a sweeping generalization, but I feel compelled to make a sweeping generalization: When you have a gay community, you get with it a certain number of people who take “pride” quite literally. Two words: banana hammock.
I don’t mean to turn you off to visiting Asbury Park. It isn’t a severe problem here. You will certainly see many, many more guys like me in long swimsuits than not but as far as I’m concerned, one guy wearing a tight bikini bottom is one too many.
I’m an American. If you’re not on the Olympic Swim Team, I hate your tiny little swimsuit, Mister. It gives me the willies. There, I said it. But let’s be clear about something: I don’t choose to get the willies when I see a man’s bare rear at the bottom of what looks like his sister’s bathing suit. Got that? It’s not a choice. I was born this way. I can’t help that I hate seeing rear-hair any more than someone can choose their own eye color. In fact, since I was born this way, I assert it’s natural for me to feel this way. Even more, I’m proud of it – so proud I may have a parade to show how proud I am of who I am.
Know that this is not about homosexuality. It just so happens that gays in Asbury Park are the men wearing these things. If it were straight guys parading their ugly parts I’d be just as uncomfortable. A man should act and dress like a man, no matter his sexual orientation.
What this really is about is what I listed at the top: Humility. Social mores. Class. Your rear end, no matter how good you think it looks, has none of it.
Why am I concentrating on mens’ rears and not womens’ rears? Because when it comes to this issue I’m sexist. I was born that way too.
I’m also a hypocrite. Normally I’m a hardcore Libertarian. I spit my 32 ounce soda every time Mike Bloomberg tells me what to eat. I don’t like telling Muslim women they can’t wear a burka if they want to. Usually I’d be railing about individual liberty, giving government reach the arms of Tyrannosaurus Rex and that sort of thing. But – where you stand on an issue often depends on where you sit. When I’m sitting down the beach, I don’t want to look at another man’s buttocks. And I don’t want my kids to have to look at it either.
Our gay, Democrat Deputy Mayor John Loffredo just may agree with me which is further proof that this isn’t a gay issue. Gays have humility too. No one is born with it – manners are a personal choice. Also, him being such a good fellow means I’m in good company and on the right side of this.
I think. I’ll leave it up to you, Ricochet. Have I abandoned Libertarianism? Have I unleashed my inner Social Conservative? Is this just about manners, and can government enforce good manners?
Post script: I wanted this post accompanied by a photo of people in bikinis. So fearful of being redacted for a Code of Conduct violation with each photo I viewed that I settled on these cookies dressed in bikinis. Take that, Ricochet Editors! Try to redact cookies!
Photo Credit: www.LivingItWithLisa.com