2 July

The Americans: Hanging Clothes An American Symbol On The 4th

by Jon Katz
Hanging Clothes
Hanging Clothes: An IR (infrared) photograph.

It says something about the spiritual bankruptcy of our culture that hanging clothes outside on a line is illegal in  thousands of wealthy or pretentious communities in America. Think of the environmental impact of that curious bias, which forces millions of people to use many tons of chemicals, enormous amounts of electricity and other energy, and denies future generations the joy of knowing what clothes dried by the sun and wind actually feel and smell like.

Many communities claim clotheslines are a sign of poverty and ugliness, are trashy in some way. They have lost their way, they ought to build a clothesline in every new backyard, they are the pennants and symbols of family life.

If we have forgotten what animals are like, and what farms are like, we have also forgotten the meaning and simplicity and connection to nature that a simple piece of rope and a pulley can bring. We much appreciate our clothesline, and when I saw Maria out hanging our clothes on the line, I thought this was one of the most purely American images I could post on July 4th weekend, I wish more people could experience it.

I feel sad for those many people in those many states and communities who believe a clothesline is emblematic of ugliness and decay. They are very wrong. I am grateful not to live in such a narrow-minded place.

Note: In an earlier version of this post I said 19 states ban clotheslines. That’s not correct. Nineteen states ban clothesline bans, but many thousands of communities and developments across the country do ban clotheslines.

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