The Hazing Incident: Veiled Martyrdom

Luke Edelman
Issue XIV - June 7, 2003
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The recent brutal hazing incident involving high school students from a wealthy suburban Chicago community highlights the profound dystrophy that permeates the culture of America's modern youth.  It is both an astonishingly disappointing incident and a prospectively wholly beneficial occurrence for future generations, should it be dealt with in a responsible and strategic manner. Why would dozens of otherwise highly respectful and capable teenagers commit such horrific acts? They were forced to, and by a most unlikely party: themselves.

On an early Sunday afternoon in May, dozens of students of the academically excellent Glenbrook North High School of Northbrook, Illinois, paraded with two filled kegs of beer into a local Forest Preserve park to hold the annual Powderpuff football game, a non-school-sponsored event that pits junior girls against seniors as a sort of ‘rite of passage’ ritual. Alcohol was consumed and the affair snowballed into what could quite easily be considered a mob beating. Junior girls were beaten with buckets, kicked, dowsed in feces, urine, and animal intestines, kicked, punched, and suffocated by other participants. The evening ended with trips to local emergency rooms by five different girls suffering broken ankles and critical head injuries.

There has since been a flurry of media coverage worldwide concerning the occurrence, with differing opinions on methods of dealing with participants sparking extremely heated debates. The school district has recently been attempting to maneuver past the litany of lawsuits filed by various offenders to utilize suspension and expulsion as a means of punishment. Many feel that such is unwarranted and far too extreme a penalty for the wrongdoings, arguing that a term of local community service would be sufficient to spark repentance and to deter students from engaging in similar activities in the future. This notion is incorrect, however, as it fails to take into account the larger issues surrounding the incident.

Harsh punishment, yet indeed not extreme punishment, may be considered the only proper and legitimate fate to be experienced by the senior girls responsible for the occurrences. First and most visible logically, they performed horrible, outright evil and criminal acts which by virtue of every legal and social system existent since the birth of humanity are deserving of reprimand. As the United States Constitution outlaws a precisely reciprocal sentence as cruel and unusual punishment, we must look to other forms of discipline that stand equal in magnitude to the offenses. Mere community service is insufficient as it sends the message that brutal physical abuse will result in nothing more than having to perform additional chores each day. Expulsion depicts a world in which profound disobedience of legal and moral code will be punished in a comparative manner. Second, it also serves as cause outside of retribution in that it prevents other students from performing akin tasks in the future.

Those with differing opinions would pose a question in response to such a view: “What good will ruining their lives be?” First, it must be noted that expulsion will indeed not destroy students’ lives in entirety. Colleges would only be informed of involvement as a function of participants’ actions. At that, attendance at an elite college is not the only path to fulfillment in later life. Second, another question may be posed: “What good will ruining the life of a rapist do?” Or a drunk driver? Or a murderer? There exists nothing that makes these people deserving of special treatment in the eyes of the law. Many of them have preexisting criminal records. They did wrong, and thus must be penalized.

The second warrant for severe disciplinary measures is both far more obscure and important than the first. At home or on the street or in the classroom the teenage girls responsible for these horrific events are all likely comparable to angels. Yet put into the proper setting they sprout horns and a tail and are ready to wreak havoc on anything and anyone they see fit to destroy. A wholly unfortunate social circumstance triggers these girls’ volition to undertake this transformation. Girls kicked and punched because their neighbors did. They threw fish guts because other cheerleaders did. Slavery, homophobia, and racism have been and are all horribly evil and destructive social institutions. Conformity in America’s youth has proven itself to be very little different.

A walk through the halls of Glenbrook North during a passing period is both startling and amusing. The majority of males wear green Abercrombie-brand shirts and the majority of females carry Coach backpacks over their shoulders. The need students feel to appear and act precisely as their peers has reached a dangerous level of prevalence. It is what fuels drug consumption and underage sexual activity and social estrangement that causes depression and suicide. On a finer plane, students assimilated into each others’ ways and means will begin talking the same and walking the same and perhaps to a certain degree even thinking the same as their associates. The implications of social conformity are ubiquitous, and have the potential to govern all aspects of one’s life, including moral and ethical understandings.

Such is exactly and the prime concept responsible for the hazing incident. It occurred due to one figure attempting to emulate the (indeed inappropriate) actions of another many times over, causing an exponential escalation of the intensity of the befuddlement until it was outright violent. The emulation occurred because the participants believed that such adaptation is always something beneficial. They have lead their whole lives without experiencing the notion that modeling the actions and general behavior of your neighbor could be harmful to yourself or others, but rather view it as a means of attaining the all-important objective of social acceptance. Thus they perform whatever relevant tasks may arise without thinking twice about a prospective lack of moral authenticity about them. This mechanism for social control is composed of nothing more than many millions of children, and it is through their own associations that they force themselves into situations wherein they distinctly lack appropriate free will to influence individually their destinies.

The means of cracking this intimidatingly prolific movement towards cultural assimilation in America’s youth is to show students that such will inevitably result in negative consequences. The immensely publicized hazing incident exists as a perfect means of such, as final penalties will be broadcasted everywhere. The punishment of the involved pupils, characters that warranted their retribution regardless, will serve the much larger purpose of combating the horrific machine of conformity that is so damaging to the millions of students that suffer from its direct and secondhand effects. The minor harms inflicted upon these few dozen will be far surpassed in terms of relative value by the fact that they will be preventing many thousands of other ‘Powderpuff’ football games from ever taking place again.

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