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Published:November 23rd, 2009 14:30 EST
The Right to Hang Laundry

The Right to Hang Laundry

By Geoff Dean


This morning, as Tokyo came to from the daze of a long weekend and shook off the chill of a late November morning, I was up and doing what I do. Hanging out the laundry.

 Winter is not the most pleasant time to hang out the laundry, as you can probably imagine. The cold air, the wet laundry, the unpleasant breeze. But then again, I don`t really like hanging out the laundry in the scorching summer, either. My only respite is on Saturday mornings when in a nod to Jewish tradition, I take a day off from hanging out and bringing in.

Why I don`t have a clothes dryer, you may wonder, (or more likely, may not)? Yes, I do, but in Japan, the dryer is normally only used on rainy days. Using a dryer every day would be considered a) a waste of money, b) bad for the environment, and c) extremely lazy. If you ask a Japanese person why they hang out the laundry, they will give you another answer, almost to a person. (If the Jewish joke is "one man, two opinions; two men, three synagogues", the Japanese version might be "100 men, 1 opinion"). They will say, "Sun drying is good for your health." If you don`t believe me, come to Japan and ask somebody. If they tell you anything different, write me and I will refund the full price of this article and bow "too deeply" to boot.

 Still, getting back to what little of a subject there is to this contribution, I finished the laundry and opened the morning paper. The Japan Times informed me that a growing number of US residents are "fighting for the right to hang laundry." Several states have passed laws, it informed, including liberal Hawaii and Vermont and arch conservative Utah, restricting local authorities from banning hanging laundry outside. They are up against local housing associations which have banned hanging laundry in some fifty percent of US town house communities and condominiums, due to the unsightly appearance.

 The "laundry hangers" now have (what could be more American!) a lobbying group,"Project Laundry List", and a team of lawyers to defend their "rights". As one laundry hanger who has run ins with local authorities, Carin Froelich, put it, "If my husband has the right to have guns in the house, I have a right to hang laundry." She is writing a book on the subject, the article claims. Do I smell a best seller?

 Is there a right to bear laundry outside? Does my right to hang my laundry supersede your right not to see my undies floating in the breeze? Will the problem of "underwear thieves", a bizarre Japanese perversion, spread to the States of laundry hanging catches on? How should I know?

 Still, this might be one issue where we can find a consensus between the left and right. After all, the right famously wants to reduce government intrusion. Get them out of the laundry hamper! What could be more American than hanging the laundry, just like the forefathers (foremothers, maybe) and the pioneers did at their little houses on the prairie. At the same time, it is good for the environment, a liberal concern. And it saves money ($83 a month in electric bills) according to one survey, a plus for liberal, conservative, or moderate.

 Sarah Palin, if you don`t mind stopping going rogue for a moment, hang up your famous/infamous jogging short shorts (to dry)! President Obama, nobody minds if you hang out a few unmentionables in the Rose Garden. It`s so organic! Just don`t tell any Japanese housewives that they have "the right" to hang laundry. After all, you have the right to remain silent.