Brooks: Use and Abuse of Hazing Practices
By David Brooks, Staff Columnist
Published on Wednesday, October 24, 2012
"Good — get into the rain room right now!” he yelled. The rain room was the affectionate name given to the showers. As I ran into the showers with five of my other companions, I could only wonder what he had in store for us. As we entered the shower, he told us to stand along the wall and take a seated position. The six of us sat along the wall with our hands held straight out in front of us. We looked like human replicas of chairs. “Good. Hold this position for 10 minutes. If any of you drop, I’m restarting the time!” “Great,” I thought. One of my companions — let’s call him Johnson — was weak. We might be there a while.
Sure enough, Johnson dropped repeatedly. The drill instructor got bored and gave us all mops. As we sat on the wall, we were instructed to take our mops and mop up and down the wall behind us. Some of his friends came to watch and conceal grins. They turned some of the showers in the room on hot, and soon enough the room was like a sauna. Finally, I had had enough. Johnson dropped again, and I threatened him severely. Fortunately, he didn’t fall again. “Good! Now get the f*ck out!” he screamed. Collectively, we ran out of the showers as fast as we could.
The scene described above happened to me in boot camp. This “he,” one of my drill instructors, was a man tasked with molding me from a clueless adolescent into a killer who could function as part of a team. I was to learn immediate obedience to orders. Hesitation in my future career could mean life or death. For 13 weeks straight from the time I was screamed awake by a DI to the time I was given permission to sleep, I was hazed.
Boot camp is the only time that hazing is permitted in the Marine Corps. It is the one rite of passage that all of us who have earned the title Marine share. We all graduate into a group in which every man is your brother and every woman, your sister. I am typically reticent to relay my boot camp experience. Most people wouldn’t understand it, and frankly, it’s none of your business. However, the ongoing campus discussion on hazing has influenced me to speak somewhat of my own experiences.
What did all this hazing do for me? It made me a better person. I did learn to work as a team. I learned hard work and immediate response to orders, and I learned to find humor in, or at least endure, horrible situations.
This is why Andrew Lohse’s article and subsequent profile in Rolling Stone failed to strike a chord with me. It seemed as if Lohse wanted to use hazing as the catchall excuse for being an as*hole. Everybody else was to blame — the administration, his brothers, Hanover Police, Safety and Security, you name it. I’m not saying these groups do not share any blame, but rather that throwing chairs at people and threatening witnesses isn’t an “existential act of rebellion” — it’s the act of a jerk who lacks personal responsibility.
However, Yesuto Shaw’s recent article (“Through the Looking Glass: Let the Hazing Begin,” Oct. 19) was a mature, reasoned response to hazing and should garner the proper attention from the administration. As a young man, it’s hard to stand up to older guys that you look up to. What Yesuto endured was hazing, and it should have no part of the pledge process.
But didn’t I say that hazing had made me a better person? Yes, but my hazing served a purpose beyond the typical “brotherhood” excuse that is often touted by fraternities. The Marines are training for war, not to share beers. My DIs were my superiors who had endured one of the most strenuous training schools in the Marine Corps for the right to make me a Marine. No other student at this school is your superior. The DI in the above story had set off from Kuwait to Baghdad at the beginning of the Iraq War. He led his platoon right into Saddam Hussein’s palace. He knew what it took to mold me into the person that could succeed in the environment that he had also endured. No student should be expected to endure beatings, incentive training or the level of personal subjugation that Yesuto described.
The administration’s response so far has been to change the definition of hazing to a point where everything is hazing. In my fraternity, many of us willingly decide to wear jorts on Fridays. My jorts rival Daisy Duke’s, and I wear them because I have awesome legs and I find it hilarious. Yet under the new definition, many harmless acts from wearing sirens to blue ribbons to flair could now be considered hazing.
Boot camp is hard. It is meant to be hard. Not everyone who started with me finished. People who couldn’t make it were weeded out along the way. It is important that this happens before combat. Fraternities provide the ability to make lasting friendships, promote good in the community and many other positives, but they do not share any of the objectives of the military that explain the use of hazing. Arguments seeking to justify fraternity hazing by relating it to military hazing are ridiculous, as are the administration’s face-saving attempts to crack down on harmless fun.