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Run, Russell, Run
(Printed in the Towanda Daily Review on Oct. 21, 2004. Title is for web version only.)
For his nude run during the 2004 Towanda High School graduation ceremony, Russell Chmieleski was charged with indecent exposure and sentenced to up to two years in the county jail. Chmieleski said that he “streaked” the ceremony because he wasn’t allowed to participate in it; school officials reported that he hadn’t completed the requirements necessary to graduate. This story was picked up by the Associated Press and has received national and some worldwide attention.
Chmieleski wasn’t trying to molest anyone. The only weapon he had was the one that every male has. And even in its most dangerous state, it is much less dangerous than a knife or a gun. Nudity is forbidden on broadcast television, but violence is not. A female breast – used by most infants for nourishment -- can’t be shown on television, but it is legal and acceptable to graphically show someone being hit with a bullet or stabbed in the chest.
The FCC recently fined CBS $550,000 for the Janet Jackson breast incident during the Super Bowl half time show. A bared breast gets orders of magnitude more complaints than an exploded torso or head. Incidentally, bared breasts are perfectly legal in New York state. A woman can be without upper body clothing anywhere in NY where it is legal for a man to also do so.
Chmieleski staged a non-violent protest. It was probably unjustified. And according to current laws, it was illegal. It was also dumb because he didn’t have a good exit strategy. (Is he related to Bush?) But what were the damages? Perhaps some of the audience felt compelled to gouge their eyes out because they viewed a nude human body. One can only hope that they keep their eyes closed when they disrobe at home.
John L. Ferri