Here is some new level of nuts. It’s not what I expected to reflect on first after two weeks of exploring the soybean/corn/cattle/forest frontier in Brazil, though there are two distant links. For some obscure bureaucratic reason, sunscreen costs about five times as much here as in the states, so I was the bearer of a bunch of it as little presents for people we interviewed). Second, Brazilian social conventions are touchy. People have trouble explaining some things without putting a hand on your shoulder, and it’s quite agreeable.
Skin cancer is not nice; I’ve had two, one of which would have killed me if my dermatologist hadn’t noticed it in time, and the other that turned my poor nose into a disaster area of topical chemotherapy for six weeks. Both are probably the fruit of childhood sunburns before we understood the situation. These Maryland officials are poster kids for the worst kind of defensive, wrong-kind-of-lawyer-driven policymaking. On the one hand: kids need hugs and touching. Everybody does. Also, see above re skin cancer. So implementing this wretched rule damages tens of thousands of kids psychologically on the spot and perhaps thousands physically years later; that would be too bad. On the other hand: some kid will be inappropriately touched, maybe actually sexually assaulted in summer camp (no matter what dumb rules we make) but with rules like this, we won’t lose a lawsuit, maybe. Well, maybe we will still face such a suit, but it won’t come back to Mitchell’s office. This is a clear choice (from the point of view of the DOH bureaucrats) between “something that might be very disagreeable for us, and something that would be quite damaging, occasionally fatal, for a whole lot of other people”, and I guess if comfort is what you live for, the choice is clear.
Sexual abuse of minors is very bad, but we don’t need to make them sick to prevent it; we need to learn how to hug them and put on sun goo and also keep them safe from mistreatment. Not that hard, actually.