Tuesday, March 22, 2011

I Get It Now. We’re Just Hazing Them.

I’ve been confused lately by all the Muslim-bashing going on in this country.  I mean, aren’t we supposed to welcome all races, colors and creeds here?  Isn’t the United States proud to be the “melting pot” of the world, promising freedom of speech, religion and poor clothing choices (hello again, jeggings)?

Being immersed once more in the college environment has given me a new perspective on the situation, and it hit me this morning what’s really going on here: hazing. The United States is a gigantic fraternity making sure every group – essentially every pledge – takes a turn being harassed and cowed into submission to prove its worthiness.

Let’s take a look at some of the former pledges who have gone through the hazing process, sometimes brutally, before being accepted into our great fraternity:
  • Catholics
  • The Irish
  • Germans 
  • Italians
  • Quakers
  • The Chinese
  • African Americans (freedmen… slaves do not qualify as having been “hazed”)
  • Mexicans
  • Jews
  • The Japanese
  • Germans (again)
  • Cubans
  • Canadians
  • Puerto Ricans
  • Homosexuals (still treated as pledges by some)

And this list isn’t even exhaustive.  Okay, so the Canadians aren’t pledges, but we sure like to treat them like they are sometimes, don’t we?

What I’m getting at here is that the U.S. has a long history of what appears to the uninitiated to be outrageous cruelty and prejudice toward one cultural group after another.  However, that simply cannot be the truth of the matter, considering what our country is supposed to stand for.  Right?  I mean aren’t we supposed to be proud of our wide ranging heritage?  Don’t we actively and aggressively support every fathomable kind of “diversity and inclusion” in our schools, communities and workplaces? 

Don’t we talk of Ellis Island with awe, and didn’t everyone who emigrated through Ellis Island since 1886 pass by the iconic Statue of Liberty?  The last lines of the poem on the base of the Statue of Liberty read as follows:

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send them, the homeless, tempest-tost to me.
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
~ Emma Lazarus

We placed this promise on the base of a statue that was and still should be emblematic of the nature of our country – a shining light of acceptance and welcome; a safe haven for the strong and the downtrodden; a place of asylum, opportunity and freedom.

Therefore, all the rhetoric about and hateful commentary directed toward Muslims can’t be actual, ignorant prejudice. Because that would mean we’re not who we say we are. Instead, I have to hold to the idea that the rest of us (our various culture groups) have had to go through it, and now according to the fraternity code (one, frankly, which I find ludicrous) it’s their turn.  I guess?

Don’t worry, Muslim-Americans. We’ll teach you the secret handshake soon, I’m sure. And then we’ll likely focus our attention on a new pledge.


  1. I think Italians are already in... haven't you seen Jersey Shore?! Their Kool Aid is fascinating. ;)

  2. LOL, M.E.! Yeah, I think they're in, too. Their hazing was completed ages ago. They're almost frat officers now.

  3. It's sad when my first thought was "at least we aren't revisiting internment camps." Progress of a sort, I suppose.

    I'm not condoning hateful behavior, but I think there is an element of fear/instinct here. If you eat something that makes you sick, you have food aversion and don't want anything to do with that food or class of food. When an act of war comes to our shores and there is a commonality among the perpetrators, instinct tells us to be scared/avoid. Fear breeds hate. I think the challenge is moving past the first instinct response and thinking it through. (And we're back to teaching critical thinking, state of education...)

    Also - in coincidental timing, read another post that you might like:

  4. Great observations, Sylvia. I think you are spot on. And wonderful blog post! Thank you for sharing it! I'd been thinking the same thing often recently, but she said it all so... perfectly.

  5. Oooohh! I got linked. And complimented! Thank you, ladies. I do believe you just made my day. I should probably get off of the internet NOW, before I find myself doubting myself again...

    Fraternities. Gah. I see the bonding that can develop within a group like that and I also know of many groups that have accomplished fabulous Good Deeds as their result. But the need to force each newbie to "earn" their way into good standing is a bit... high schoolish.

    So, Americans are like perpetual high schoolers? Yikes.

  6. Sadly, I think America IS kind of acting like a bunch of high schoolers or frat boys, with the snipey, ever-changing attacks and the focus on "tolerance" rather than acceptance (to reference your post).

    Glad to make your acquaintance!

  7. I don't know about perpetual, but when you look at country age... we are adolescents. And we have all of the amazing potential, moments of greatness and sullen attitude to go with it!

    Apparently I'm feeling full of random historical references today. See what happens when I visit CT?

  8. Megan, you've hit the proverbial nail on the head with this one. Your insight (and Sylvia's BTW) is brilliant. Just wish we could live up to all we say we stand for. Hazing is an antiquated tradition that needs to see its way off our shores. - Lindy


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