The Right to Dry
07/09/08 12:50PM By Bill Schubart
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(Host) That long holiday weekend we just had was filled with warm sunny days - perfect for hanging your laundry outside on a line. That is, if you're allowed to. Independence Day gave commentator Bill Schubart a chance to reflect on the "right to dry."
(SCHUBART) Nature conveys no rights and only a few privileges. You could be driving your country club golf cart down several square miles of manicured fairway and be struck dead by lightning, swarmed by voles, or attacked by feral swine with tusks. There are no guarantees in nature.
Rights are conveyed by thoughtful governments. For example, our unalienable right to have an AK-47 in the bedroom - or our right to choose or make up our own religion - have both been reaffirmed by the Supreme Court.
However, many rights are still under debate - such as habeas corpus or the right to call your great grandmother in Cuba without someone eavesdropping to see if she is a terrorist - or the right to work for a living, as opposed to working for healthcare premiums and taxes to fund reconstruction in countries we have attacked. These rights will all be sorted out in time. But there is one unalienable right that must be safeguarded.
According to a recent news report, Wai Wang of Maryland has been demonstrating in our nation's capital for the "right to dry."
If it is not yet, this should be made an unalienable right.
My wife and I live in Hinesburg. We have cut our electrical usage by a third by using CFL bulbs, turning things off when we aren't using them, and retiring our dryer, which used the same power when running as ninety five 60-watt bulbs, enough to light all the woods in our neighborhood.
We have not heard word one from our neighbors about our hanging our personal garments outdoors to dry in the recent rains. My double-X undies luff in the breeze like a top gallant on one of the tall ships, and no one complains. Of course, we live in the woods.
Apparently, though, there are gated communities, condo organizations and housing committees that see the outdoor drying of laundry as an offense to the eye - a throwback to the tenement days of their forefathers - and do not allow home owners to dry their clothes outdoors for fear of lowering property values or intimating poverty.
This would make an independent Vermonter crazy - like the guy who bucks authority and paints his house a garish neon blue in a "quaint town" where zoning laws dictate that everyone has to paint their house white. Or nowadays the Thoreauvian fellow who buys an outdoor furnace so big that a family of four with a dog and a goldfish could live in it quite comfortably - and burns hemlock, corn cobs, tires and old Levis to avoid the thousand dollar fill-up of his oil tank. Go figure.
We are going to have to sort out this fragile balance of rights and privileges, especially as our role as champion consumers is challenged by aspiring middle classes around the globe. We will have to get over our effete sensibilities about laundry blowing in the wind and lawn ornaments displaced by piles of drying wood. We must at all costs, however, enshrine the "right to dry."
(Host) Bill Schubart lives and dries his laundry and wood in Hinesburg.