Beer and skin in the Land of the Free

One of the best things about living in Canada is the constant entertainment we get from the zany people next door. Other neighbourhoods have their oddities, but until you’ve lived next to the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave, don’t try and talk to us about strange.

One of the best things about living in Canada is the constant entertainment we get from the zany people next door. Other neighbourhoods have their oddities, but until you’ve lived next to the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave, don’t try and talk to us about strange.

Two stories brought the neighbours to mind this week. In one, a black university professor and white cop found themselves in a very public dispute over a case of racial profiling, a dispute which the most powerful man on

earth attempted to settle just as a Canadian neighbour might have done, by inviting them both over for a beer. In the other, the University of California at Los Angeles has announced a ban on the annual Undie Run, citing

drunkenness and vandalism as reasons.

According to the Jewish Journal of Greater LA, the Undie Run began seven years ago after the university banned a popular event called Midnight Yell, for about the same reasons. The Undie Run consists of – you guessed it
– people running around in their underwear. After considerable research into the matter – who knew that Google images would offer up 2,300,000 hits on one subject? – Nordicity can safely report that while the young male runners’ underpants tend toward the demure, young women in the event exhibit a higher degree of boldness, as well as a greater percentage of skin.

The question arises, if the university administration is successful in banning the Undie Run as they did the Midnight Yell, what will come next, and will it be less likely to end in drunkenness and vandalism? In these regards,

the underwear party would seem to be a safer bet than a clothed one, since not one of the running outfits catalogued by the Nordicity research team had pockets, so essential for transporting cans of booze and spray paint.

But it may be that secreted away in some of those boxer shorts was the alcohol that fueled a night of near-rioting the last time 10,000 college students ran through LA in their underwear. Look for a forward-thinking

administration to ban clothing altogether at future exam-week blowouts, thereby eliminating all but the most uncomfortable hiding places, and cutting back on drunkenness. Deprived of booze, those gallant lads might even

dispense with the rioting and proceed to the more obvious conclusion called for by such an evening. Clearly, the real solution to the rioting problem lies in displaying more beautiful young skin, not less.

Skin was very much the issue in the case of Henry Louis Gates Junior, the Harvard University professor who was arrested last week after breaking into his own stately home. A neighbour, observing Gates and his driver –

both of whose skin-tone was somewhat darker than the norm in that well-off neighbourhood – pushing in the front door after Gates arrived home without his keys, called the police. Gates took umbrage at the arrival of a

Sergeant Crowley, and accused him of racial profiling. After an exchange of views, Gates was hauled off in handcuffs.

The president of the United States annoyed a lot of Americans, almost all of them white, by calling the police’s stupid actions “stupid,” so he decided to try and smooth the waters by having the two men over to the White

House for a beer. No mention of what beer will be on offer, or if a second or third beer will be part of the event, which President Obama describes as “three folks having a drink at the end of the day and hopefully giving people

an opportunity to listen to each other.”

Now, I’m a great believer in the healing properties of beer, and I especially admire that wonderful beverage’s ability to liven up a social occasion, but I think Obama missed a trick here. Think how much more of a statement he

could have made by inviting the warring parties to run around Washington in their underwear with him. If America isn’t used to seeing black-skinned people in positions of power yet, maybe they’re just not seeing enough skin.

Al Pope won the 2002 Ma Murray Award for Best Columnist in BC/Yukon. His novel, Bad Latitudes, is available in bookstores.

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