Ron Way (“The casualization of America,” Feb. 25) connects the relationship of the way Americans dress these days with the general societal attitude toward education, government, person-to-person respect and matters of overriding significance. Quoting an image expert, he writes that the “casualization of America is about the general decline of civility.”
Whew, I wish that statement wouldn’t rattle my chains, but it does so much to the point that it makes one want to grab people by the throat and demand they pull up their pants to at least near their waist, ban shredded jeans and outlaw breast-baring blouses. What do those things say about society’s values?
Our society is, indeed, headed down the tubes if this is the true expression of what’s inside people. As Ralph Waldo Emerson put it, “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”
I’m no connoisseur of finery, but I can judge what is presentable, whether it be a pair of freshly washed jeans or a three-piece Hart Schaffner Marx. It behooves me to express my philosophy of personal responsibility and respectful conduct through what I wear as well as how I behave and what I say. What about you?
Carleton Molin, Coon Rapids
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I ask Way to consider the general “America” he is addressing. How can such a broad statement be made about a country consisting of so many people with varying aptitudes and professions? A plumber or truck driver may not wear the same clothing to work as an accountant or psychologist. And in their off time, why would dressing up or down in stark comparison to what they wear on a daily basis be necessary?
I don’t deny that dressing well boosts confidence. But, generalizing appearance standards without considering our economic standpoint (i.e., 12.7 percent of the U.S. population living below the poverty line, according to 2016 U.S. Census Bureau reports), can lean toward the side of oversimplification. Though clothing may be a morale booster, it does not land high on the list of things needed to fully function.
Though I agree with the general sentiment surrounding the benefits of dressing well, whether Americans choose to do so or not may only be a small sliver impacting the larger changes in our democracy at hand.
MaiLei Meyers, Minneapolis
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Way’s commentary on “casual to causal” was on the mark.
Some time ago I wrote in my Sunday column for The Forum newspaper of Fargo and Moorhead that casual Friday had deteriorated into sloppy every day. Even Sunday church services had become showcases for fashion that featured ill-fitting (or too tight) jeans, billboard-like Ts and sweatshirts, country elevator or sports team caps, and squeaky tennies.
Several responses were: “God doesn’t care how I dress in church.” To which I replied: “Maybe so, but you should care if you believe you are in God’s house.”
That was several years ago. As Way writes, it’s gotten worse. Apparently, slovenliness is now next to godliness.
Jack Zaleski, Fargo
The writer is a retired editorial page editor for The Forum.
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Is casual dress really leading to the decline in America? I would posit quite the opposite is true — that the decline in American values is leading to casual dress. As the average worker’s pay has deteriorated over the past 30 years, buying a $500 suit is not high on the list of priorities. Buried under a pile of student loans, house and car payments while watching the CEO cash in his stock options for millions, could it be that the American worker is saying that if you want me to dress up, give me a raise?
Richard Crose, Bloomington
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While America does suffer problems in civility and civic engagement, style snobbery certainly won’t help.
You look at the dapper Nazis in Charlottesville and call that “uplifting”? You see the bickering and drama in people in suits in Congress and on political commentary shows and call that “respectful”? And how can you look at the jeans and T-shirts of activists and protesters, of all political stripes, and say they are “less caring, less interested”?
The truth is that civility and civic engagement do not rely on clothing. Blaming “kids today” and their T-shirts is seeking a lazy excuse to avoid a bigger problem.
Nicholas Harper, Minneapolis
Why such disrespect for those who participate in their parties?
The Feb. 25 Hot Dish Politics item “DFLers building their case,” by J. Patrick Coolican, was interesting but contained some gratuitously snide references that ought to annoy partisan political activists of any ideology. Referring to local and congressional unit conventions as “deadly dull political meetings” betrays an ignorance of both the substance and the purpose of these essential steps in participatory democracy. And the remark that “many” state-level delegates “will be party hacks who wind up at the convention every two years” really insults the millions of Americans whose devotion to country and community motivates them to “burn a couple Saturdays” to act on that love.
The major parties have many flaws, but those who, like Coolican, denigrate the multiyear commitment of their more active grass-roots participants are really denigrating democracy itself. Regardless of party, these citizens are patriots and should be applauded for at least trying to improve the system and our lives. You can call them hacks. I’ll call them patriots.
Buzz Snyder, Sauk Rapids, Minn.
Trump’s push for tariffs has this doubter cheering
No supporter of Trump am I. I regard his presidency as the most destructive in living memory. Having said that, I must admit that whether he intended it or not, his call for increased tariffs on steel and aluminum imports is a long-overdue corrective to severe erosion of our critical national interests in the area of heavy industry (“Trump to impose tariffs on metals,” March 2).
These national interests affect our ability to manufacture military hardware in time of war. Lest we forget, a huge factor in our World War II victory was our unparalleled ability to arm not only ourselves, but our allies as well. We were the Arsenal of Democracy. So if we allow our steel and aluminum industries to languish further into a sliver of their former selves, how can we expect to produce the broad range of armaments necessary for our defense — especially if one of our potential adversaries controls a vital link in the chain of such production?
Of equal concern is that once heavy industries are lost, one does not wish them back into existence overnight, nor can one expect to magically resurrect their requisite skilled labor. I don’t pretend to know exactly how we save our heavy industries, but given the amount of disparagement directed at manufacturing by certain financiers (see “The Upside of Inequality,” Edward Conard, a founding partner with Mitt Romney of Bain Capital), it’s about time we focus on it.
Dean Ekola, Roseville