Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Opinion | Manners — and legislating — have little to do with attire

Opinion | Manners — and legislating — have little to do with attire


I was saddened to see another reference to the relaxed dress code in the Senate, particularly from a voice I respect, in Kathleen Parker’s Sept. 24 op-ed, “Dressing down for the Senate is just bad manners.” Ms. Parker probably would have liked my mother, a kind and lovely woman from South Carolina. She attended church, impeccably dressed, every Sunday of my life. Even as norms became mostly casual, she showed up in understated elegance every time she was able. I never heard her utter a critical word about who wore what.

One Sunday, I sat down beside her and raised my eyebrows at having seen a young woman with half of her head shaved, the other half blue, two sleeves of tattoos and multiple piercings. “Kathy,” she whispered, “I’m just so glad she’s here.”

Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.), called out in Ms. Parker’s op-ed, applied for and was hired in his uniform of choice. Pennsylvanians accepted his appearance. He has performed ably and courageously shared his struggle with depression. I wish for all of us the grace to accept him as he presented himself while auditioning for the Senate. I can see my mother leaning in to whisper, “Pettiness is beneath you.”

Kathy M. Fleming, Springfield

Like Kathleen Parker, I grew up in the South. When I was in high school, my parents considered me properly dressed even though my peers judged me to be poorly attired because my jeans and shoes were the wrong brands. My father forced me to wear a dorky hat, which was not cool at the time.

Unlike Ms. Parker, I learned that manners were what you did, not what you wore. When it comes to actions in the Senate, bad manners run rampant. Let’s start with Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who denied Merrick Garland the courtesy of a hearing when he was nominated to be a Supreme Court justice eight months before the 2016 presidential election on the grounds that the voters should have a voice. This gave Donald Trump his first Supreme Court appointment.

I also learned in Georgia that being hypocritical was not something to be proud of. Yet Mr. McConnell got Amy Coney Barrett confirmed to the court barely one month before the 2020 election, giving Mr. Trump his third appointment and denying Joe Biden, the new president, his choice.

Finally, Mr. McConnell could have spared us all the current spectacle of Mr. Trump running for president while facing 91 felony counts in four jurisdictions if the Republican leader had led his caucus to convict Mr. Trump in the Senate impeachment trial.

So much for good manners and decent behavior. Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.) can wear whatever he likes so long as he behaves honorably. Mr. McConnell is missing his manners.

Bob Bailey, Silver Spring

It took about 200 years to get rid of the necktie. Now there are all sorts of objections to Sen. John Fetterman’s (D-Pa.) attire. In the name of “tradition,” should we go back to wigs and robes, as in the British courts?

What does the attire of a senator have to do with the value of the senator’s ideas? The ideas are what the country needs, not fashion.



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