Can We Do Better? Remembering 9/11

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We joined a fraternity or sorority, and because of that, we believe ourselves to be better men and women.

We looked at photos of potential members on a slide show. We discussed each potential member’s qualifications, his looks, whether or not he is gay, whether or not that would affect our image. We discuss if he can hold his liquor, and sometimes have a funny story to tell about it. We decide to give him a bid, because we can help him be better, be more like us.

He joins, and we take on the challenge of improving him. We ask him to stay up late, to attend last-minute meetings. We build his character by asking him to clean up after us, to schedule meetings with us, to exercise each morning and study with his new class of “soon to be better” men each night. We don’t often partake in any of these activities, for the process of character-building lasts just 8 weeks-3 months, or until another class of new members replaces our educational attention.

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He is initiated. To him we read a ceremony passed down over generations. It was written to teach each of those who go through it a valuable lesson. We choose instead to distract.

Around each corner, corners which he may not see due to a blindfold or intoxication or sheer panic, lies a noise, a character-building punishment, or a mental or physical test. In between bland recitations of another generation’s values, we spice up the ceremony, to provide excessive pleasure to those conducting it, and a, at the very least, confusing experience for those entering it.

He is taught that the importance of that ceremony is in its challenge, its test, and so he continues to ignore what he reads as Chapter President two years later and instead focuses on ensuring that each who passes through has earned his keep.

Becoming President was simple. After an inevitable down-year, after the chapter recruited men who wanted to be a part of what was built, not a part of building it further, the chapter looked to he with the most bravado.

Our young man, believing he earned his spot after 8 blistering weeks of character building, declares the other fraternities inferior and demands that his chapter reap its deserved rewards: women.

He promises that the chapter will be the best it’s been, will throw its best parties, have the best name on campus, and, most importantly, the best brotherhood, devoid of cliques and those who may negatively affect its reputation.


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In his final year in college, he sits for his last potential member voting ceremony. The criteria are largely unchanged. The chapter wants men who give it a good image, who have sex with many women, who are smart, yet not smart to the extent that they may be considered “strange.” The chapter wants men to perpetuate its image, to play sports.

The chapter wants men who will commit unquestionably to the brotherhood, so much so that they are willing to go through physical and mental hell just to refer to the esteemed men of this room as their “brothers.”

On the other side of campus, a service club performs an act of service each week for a local organization. They have not faced headlines for killing party-goers or beating those who join their ranks. Those who wish to partake in service simply join. If they perform, they stay. If they don’t, they leave.

On the other side of campus, an honor society meets each week with a different professor or professional who shares his or her thoughts on leadership, excellence, and the development of human culture. They have not faced headlines for subjective exclusivity or overtly racist videos posted to Snapchat. They simply look at a candidate’s merit, and focus their attention to providing that candidate with connections to improve his or her self.


None of these groups use what they do to better themselves and the world as an excuse. They rarely have to. We respond by pointing out their lack of a social experience, their lack of sex.

We instead compare ourselves to other groups, athletic teams and marching bands, who share the same vices, in the hopes that the limited free time we have to dedicate to ourselves and our communities in lieu of practice will provide us the ammunition to say “at least we are better.”

So as we think of our excuses for our actions. As we think of the good we do and the money we donate. Can you blame one for asking, “Can we do better?”

On this day fifteen years ago, it was hatred and prejudice that drove several terrorists to kill innocent people, for the simple reason that they lived in a country the terrorists despised. Whether you believe their hatred was justified or not, those who died were not those who caused such tension.

On that day, we asked questions like: “Why does it take a tragedy for the good of humanity to show?” as we witnessed hundreds and thousands of people pitching in. Men and women saved others running for their lives from a building moments away from collapse. Men and women gave food, water and money to care for the families of those lost.


Why are we better?

Are we better than the average college student because we occasionally overrule our demons when a member dies or when we fulfill a service requirement? Are we better simply because we have the power to choose those who join our ranks, and then choose again if they are outcasted within their first 8 weeks?

Are we better because of the good that we do, without any consideration for the bad in our lives?

To be better, you must commit to a life that is better. It is not enough to make up for your mistakes. You need to stop making them.

To party is a choice. To haze is a choice. To have sex is a choice. To call someone a faggot or nigger or bitch or retard is a choice.

Rarely are those choices more than a fleeting sensation of elitism, justified by the word “better.”

If you are really choosing to be better, and if you are really choosing to be a Fraternity Man, you don’t let tragedy influence when you do good. Today of all days is the best day to start. Don’t justify your drinking habits. Stop. Don’t justify that you overwork and spend to little time on yourself or your loved ones. Stop. Don’t justify demons, overcome them, every hour of every day.

It’s hard to blame you, your current role models are an inflammatory businessman and a woman haunted by her lies for supposedly innocent actions. . . damn.