Friday, January 20, 2006

Abramoff scandal shouldn't keep us from wearing hats

I've been known to wear a hat or two. I once picked up the sobriquet, the Hat Man, after appearing on a TV show with a hat on. But I had a practical reason behind - or should I say beneath - that: the TV appearance was outdoors in Albany, New York, in the dead of winter, and it was cold. In fact, I have not understood the contemporary disparagement of hats simply because I find them so practical, not to mention stylish. Which is why the current clucking over disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff's hat is problematic.

For those who have had their heads in the sand - or their hats pulled down over their eyes - Abramoff is the former American lobbyist who recently pleaded guilty to several charges, including attempts to influence the political decisions of politicians in Washington, D.C. He's also an observant Jew, and the combination of being Jewish and wearing a black fedora during his "perp walk" has gotten a lot of people talking. In fact, Orthodox Jews are quite concerned about Abramoff's behatted appearance. They are worried about the fallout of this equation: Jew + money + backroom influence + sleazy dealings + black hat = bad for the Jews.

There has been speculation that Abramoff was consciously trying to play the religion card by wearing his hat. I take the opposite stand. Few outside the Jewish community even realized the black fedora was code for religious Jew. If you didn't know, Orthodox Jews of all shades wear what I call a Model-T hat: available in any kind of style and shape, as long as it is black.


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