Those who know me know I love America. When I say America I mean Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence America, Theodore Roosevelt’s quiet and powerful America and Ronald Reagan’s get shot and crack jokes in the emergency room America. America the challenger, the wily champion of liberty for the world.
Fraternities seem to love America too. They paint wooden letters like the U.S. flag, chant USA at every drunken moment and, as I’ve said before, could have been/be a catalyst for all of the great changes we’ve witnessed in our nation’s brief history.
There are; however, many un-American things fraternities do. I could say the majority of TFM’s content fits into this and simply direct you there, but that’s a dead horse and there is too much to make fun of, so I’ll pick three thoughts and keep your eyes here for the sake of Google Analytics.
Degrading Inexperienced Members
My father is from Greece and my mom from Iraq. About 69% of the fights my parents had while I was a child revolved around within which nation Christianity became a thing. Neat huh? (my mother is Assyrian; look it up)
I regularly pick on Greece because:
1.Assyria is no longer a country and that’s just mean to put my mother in that situation.
2.Greeks are notorious for thinking that the world would be lost without them.
Whenever I point out to my father that Greece is in the dumps he references point number two. I often hear, “C’mon Niko America has only been around for 200 years, it’s bull[corn] this country.” This boils my blood.
Sure our modern history extends over a period far more limited than that of our counterparts in England, Russia, China or Egypt, but look at how much ish America has done in that short period of time. We went from 13 broke colonies to a booming great power by the end of the 19th Century. By the end of the 20th Century we pulled Europe out of two gigantic wars and served as a model example for dozens of countries to break free of European imperialism and pursue liberty.
We are still one of the younger countries in the world, but are somehow the largest economy, the sole super-power and have handily won the battle of influential culture. (Which Chinese pop-star are you listening to today? NONE)
So you are going to tell me that your new members are any less capable of leading your chapter to victory than senior member Johnny Six-Pack? You are going to tell me that you act like your alumni’s indentured servant every homecoming weekend because they’ve been around longer than you? Respect your elders, but for Heaven’s sake know that they can be and are regularly wrong.
It’s a rare situation when the Alpha Chapter of a fraternity is operating and if it is it is a rare situation that it is the best chapter in the country by any metric other than its own. Stop treating new members like colonies and start recognizing that they will soon dominate your chapter and your organization. If you do anything else, you are just an annoyingly wigged and powdered British tool-bag taxing too much and begging to be overthrown. Heed my warning.
Championing Tradition over Innovation
If the United States were like Britain’s other colonies we’d be a part of the Commonwealth of Nations, drive on the wrong side of the road, and drink tea instead of Starbucks. The only tea shop that offers scholarships and healthcare to its employees is Teavana and it’s owned by Starbucks: point USA.
If we relied entirely on tradition we’d have a King, a disgustingly socialist and inflation-hungry economy (wait) and Apple would have been another ugly computer-making company.
Tradition is nice, but it is not the law of the land and it is not God. Much like our American traditions, yours are likely no older than a few generations. The only traditions that matter are those that have been a part of your organization from the beginning, and those are likely philosophies.
You see, over the course of time people begin to value things more than they value principles. The U.S. was founded on the belief of religious tolerance, economic mobility and personal liberty. Fast forward to 2014 and the NSA is collecting your selfies off of Instagram.
My fraternity was founded on the belief of equality, diversity and a common bond of men. Theoretically, your Sex on the Beach party, no matter how much you twist it, does not fit with any of those principles.
What I mean here is, maybe if you focused less on phony traditions, more on your organizations principles and enabled your men to think outside the box (instead of controlling them like powdered and wigged British tool-bags), your chapter would do something that would make the news for being awesome.
Hazing will beat out a road-clean up no matter how many hours you spend filling half a trash bag each year. Your members saving a life with CPR or helping underprivileged high schoolers attend college IS newsworthy. . . catch my drift? You’ve dug your own hole because it makes you comfortable, and America is not about comfort.
Traditions should be principles, not things. The things you regularly do should revolve around said principles.
Over-Indulging on Alcohol, Sex & Hazing
1913 was the worst year in American History. Some bozo decided to make money worthless. End of story (and please End the Fed).
Prior to that year, we were on our way to being the most prosperous nation in the world. We expanded westward, built railways across the continent, and our presidents were elected out of cottages, not just uppity law schools.
We rarely went to war unprovoked, immigration wasn’t considered a threat to jobs and we finally began to right some wrongs regarding the rights of women and non-white citizens. Heck, the document that describes our government (the constitution, look that up before Assyria) is basically (entirely) a document designed to express limitations on our government. Thoughtful limitations are a true American quality.
Theodore Roosevelt was a bad ass, but he created the park system to ensure that nature was preserved despite the rapid growth and industrialization of the nation. He, a bad ass as previously mentioned, also made famous the term, “Speak softly, but carry a big stick.” For those of us who don’t understand that on the first read-through, it means that ability isn’t a call to action.
What about slurred speech at the bar, sexual promiscuity beyond the world “no” and violent actions against other chapters and our own members embodies ANY of that?
You are effectively proving the Bill of Rights useless, embarrassing your families and countrymen and no better than the Japanese raping every village conquered in China during World War II. Are those the associations you want to have? If you love liberty, freedom, fireworks and America, stop being such blokes. If your chapter deals drugs you are more a Mexican cartel than an American hero.
You can be a bad ass, like Teddy, and considerate at the same time.
All that said, we professionals are not perfect. We still binge drink at every conference, organize a socialist formal recruitment system (particularly the women), and raise dues to pay for new curtains at HQ (before Delta Sigs kill me we haven’t raised dues in YEARS and have tripled our programming and doubled our scholarships in that time; you’re lucky).
However; the next time you let an alumnus talk down to you, a chapter member turn down an idea “because tradition,” or you decide to spend $10,000 on a party rather than building a neighborhood park, paint over one of your American flag-colored wooden letters with a big fat hammer and sickle, because you are no more American than the Spice Girls.