My friend sent me a meme of a woman exchanging sex for toilet paper. Is this what we have become? I know that “cleanliness is godliness” but, really? We are faced with a pandemic and people are scurrying around hoarding hand sanitizer and toilet paper while forgetting the bigger questions of our humanity. We can’t cope with the situation so we busy ourselves with petty purchases to buy time.

As for toilet paper, most of the world does without toilet paper and they are quite clean. In fact, they regard American toilet habits as filthy. When I traveled to Africa, the Middle East or Asia, I first encountered life without toilet paper. In the French-inspired places there were bidets for washing next to the toilets. In other places, there were spray wands for washing. In other places, there were buckets of water with cups. Most homes had jugs similar to pots for watering plants. They are called lota or bodna in India, and tasse or ibrik in Arabic. There are many words for simple devices to clean oneself with water after using the toilet.

In my dad’s day in the Ozarks, they used corn cobs and tossed them into the pit toilets to compost. In places where water is used to clean, they say, “What do you do if something sticks?” The same can be said about using dry toilet paper. And here we are, calling ourselves the “most civilized nation,” suffering with angst over a commodity most of the world does without.

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