Cook: Keep your laws off my underwear!

Cook: Keep your laws off my underwear!

April 9th, 2012 by David Cook in Opinion Columns

It's like we've elected Tommy Hilfiger.

The politics of fashion have entered the state House, where Nashville legislators passed with little dissent the "We Don't Want To See Your Underwear" bill, outlawing sagging pants and visible sports bras in schools.

The governor -- presumably wearing a coat and tie -- will probably sign the bill in the weeks to come.

Sagging -- the odd teenage practice of wearing pants on the latitude somewhere between groin and ankle -- has its history in prison culture, where belts are contraband and thus, prison pants sagged.

At some point, the practice hopped the jailhouse walls and entered pop culture, where it largely exists practiced by black male teenagers.

Of course it's crude. Parts of the body that belong in the bathroom don't belong in public.

That's why we have public indecency laws. Already on the books.

That's why schools can craft their own dress codes. Already doing that.

So why did legislators -- isn't this Big Government intruding? -- seem so convinced they need to legislate how students -- mainly black males -- can dress?

Why not outlaw the suit and tie, the dress of choice for most people who commit the largest crimes in our country? Like declaring war. Blowing off mountaintops. Enron. The banking bubble.

It's the Hoodification of Politics, where the big and important issues are covered up by superficial ones.

The hoodie -- a traditionally blue-collar coat with hood and drawstrings used for protection from weather or to hide your face for various reasons -- has become center of political discourse, a symbol emerging from the death of Trayvon Martin.

Hoods have been used in the not-so-distant past as well. White hoods, pointed at the top, burning cross in the background. Terror suspects overseas. All hooded.

The head gets covered, which represents identity (face) and intelligence (brain). The Hoodification of Politics is about paying attention to the surface -- the outside -- and covering up what really matters.

Consider: We criminalize sports bras, while legalizing the blowing up of mountains for coal.

Nashville legislators are also working to encourage science teachers to teach the weaknesses of such things as biological evolution and climate change.

I imagine they'll do this between tornado drills, as the 18 zillion tornadoes that seem to be descending on our state have nothing to do with a changing climate, right?

In Chattanooga, the Occupy protesters were tossed from the county courthouse. Why? Lawn maintenance. The lawn was getting mussed up, and clearly the lawn -- the green surface of things -- matters more than the First Amendment. Or corporate control over democracy, which was what Occupy was mainly protesting.

Look, it's not just politics. The media are guilty, too.

It's been three weeks since Keoshia Ford was shot in the head. Thirteen years old. Playing in the yard. Drive-by madness.

She's gotten a millisecond of attention compared to Gail Palmgren, the Signal Mountain housewife who went missing and dominated headlines for months in this city.

Keoshia, in a coma and fighting for her precious life, matters. Every bit as much as Palmgren.

That's why Mayor Ron Littlefield deserves applause.

Running on empty at the end of a battered political year, the mayor made one of the most unpopular decisions imaginable: Move the Bessie Smith Strut away from M.L. King Boulevard to a sanitized and safer Riverbend.

The police have warned him of all that could go wrong if gun violence showed up among the tall-boy beers, barbecue and blues. Keoshia times 10.

In the interest of public safety, he made a tough decision, one that valued the depth of human life.

I wonder what lawmakers in Nashville would say. Based on the way they've made an idol of the Second Amendment, they'd probably recommend arming everybody at the Strut.

It's like we've elected Ted Nugent. Well dressed, of course.

David Cook can be reached at