Some establishments have high standards, or at least try to have some standards.
Easton Area School District officials, for example, took action against the display of "I ♥ Boobies" bracelets worn by students pretending they were exercising free speech in a crusade against breast cancer.
I have repeatedly offered this hypothetical: If boys in a school displayed something about how much they loved their private parts, and used a vulgar term for them (as defined by most dictionaries), would U.S. District Judge Mary McLaughlin rule in their favor on free speech grounds?
Not a chance.
Hats off to school officials who try to maintain minimum standards of decency.
In two other establishments — television news and the legal profession — I sometimes have very negative things to say, using the terms "blow dries" to refer to those in the first and "ambulance chasers" for some of the people (contingency-fee hyenas) in the second. I am even less kindly disposed toward judges who are too stupid or too crooked to follow the law.
In one sense, however, both of those establishments have high standards. Participants are required to dress as though they have some degree of professionalism.
In the newspaper establishment, many blame the decline of readership entirely on things like television, the Internet and other diversions. That decline has been concomitant, however, with decisions by newspaper managers to let journalists work while dressed like stevedores or bums.
Meanwhile, it is to the everlasting credit of Dorney Park and Wildwater Kingdom that the people who run that establishment have gone out on a limb to try to maintain some standards, some integrity.
As reported on the front page of The Morning Call on Sunday, a 20-year-old Bethlehem woman with a "wholesome demeanor" was turned down for a job at Dorney Park because of a garish tattoo disfiguring the back of her neck.
Dorney Park, it seems, has a policy of no tattoos on the hands, head, face or neck. (That also would rule me out. I have a tattoo — just a little blue dot, really — on my right palm, the result of accidentally jabbing myself with a pencil when I was 19 or 20.)
The 20-year-old's multiple tattoos were not accidental. She apparently did this to herself, uglifying her skin for life, on purpose. Wholesome? Yipes.
The story observed that many young adults have found themselves "at the vexing confluence of powerful trends, both cultural and economic," and that "a quarter of Americans between the ages of 18 and 50 have body art." (To call this art is the most grotesque misnomer imaginable.)
Other major Lehigh Valley establishments, it was reported, also have restrictions on what employees can display during work hours. Tattoo removal has become a booming business because employers (except for biker bars and brothels, I assume) do not want to have ink freaks prancing around their places of business.
A Macungie woman who was denied a job because of her tattoos blamed it on bigotry. "Racism — that's what it felt like," she was quoted as saying.
That comparison seemed especially odd to me. There are people who were born with their tattoos? They did not have them gouged into their skin willingly?
"To me, my tattoos are part of who I am" the Macungie woman was quoted as saying.
I agree completely. And that is why I respect employers who stand up for standards of appearance. Unnatural appearance, when deliberate, reflects character.
As I have argued before, the heaviest concentrations of tattoos are on the skin of the lowest elements of the human race. Pimps, pugs, prison inmates, prostitutes and the members of criminal biker gangs are the creatures most likely to have tattoos.
Most of the ostensibly sane people who get tattoos deliberately, it seems to me, must want to emulate such creatures. And then they want employers to hire them, especially when they are going to be working around innocent children?
It must be acknowledged that getting a tattoo is not the only willful and repulsive behavior that can preclude employment. There are others — habitual use of obscenities, refusal to learn the common English language, punching the boss, drunkenness, and getting fat, which, in my case, dashes my hopes of getting a job as an underwear model or ballet dancer. (Maybe I should file a lawsuit against the Pennsylvania Ballet.)
No one wants to deny people the right to express themselves as they wish, no matter how idiotic that form of expression is. You may not believe this, but there are some who do not always agree with what I say.
If I'm wrong about something, however, I can try to write a correction or at least an explanation. I'm not stuck with a garish display of stupidity for life.
So hats off to Dorney Park, too.
Paul Carpenter's commentary appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays.