Thursday, July 21, 2005

Anti-beardist society

I'm amused to read that Senator Joe Lieberman's Shiva beard has attracted bemused media attention:
At least three Connecticut dailies have published articles about the senator's beard, explaining the religious significance behind it, and news broadcasts in the state have also mentioned it. The first paper to carry the story, the New Haven Register, reported that observers at one event "were surprised to see the usually clean-shaven" Connecticut Democrat "sporting a full beard"... Several days later, a reporter for the Waterbury Republican-American wrote that Lieberman's appearance at a press conference in Washington was "scruffy enough" to elicit "a few raised eyebrows and whispers in the crowd." But the comments came from people who didn't know about "a deep-rooted Jewish custom," the article continued.
Strangest of all:
Rabbi David Walk of Congregation Agudath Sholom in Stamford, one of two rabbis quoted in the Republican-American story, told the Jewish Ledger he thought it was "extremely impressive" for someone in Lieberman's position to observe the stricture against haircuts or shaving.
The article mentions that similar media attention was heaped on Al Gore's beard, which he grew after 'losing,' as it were, the 2000 election, "because he was no longer vying for office and could afford to relax."
The surprising thing here is not that Lieberman has grown a beard -- but that this received any serious attention at all. Why are beards so strange, comment-worthy and daring (!) to these people? As has been noted before, it's almost as if having a beard -- which once used to be a sign of wisdom and respectability -- is now a moral vice.

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