Sometimes I wonder how new TV programming is pitched. Take a new silly sitcom called Glory Daze. It’s a show chronicling the trials and tribulations of frat boys in the 80s. I can hear the front man for the idea now: “It’s about four frat brothers who go through rush and survive as pledges, building friendships and learning the ropes of college together while having lots of good, mostly clean American fun.”
That narrative is okay unless you went to college and weren’t in a fraternity. Then you know the reality was more like this: “It’s about four superficial freshman waifs who go to college and join a fraternity, pay for like-minded superficial friends, attend cheesy, lamely-themed “greek” parties, get dizzy, superficial coeds drunk and have sex with them (conscious or unconscious) and paddle and/or urinate on each other in foolish, clandestine fraternity rituals” (Just ask Rand Paul.).
I saw Animal House before I went to college and was able to enjoy it for that simple fact. Once at the university myself, I quickly realized what wankers most fraternity boys were, carefree and confident on their daddy’s nickel, polishing their social skills instead of their intellect and learning how to play the game rather than challenge it or level the playing field for everybody involved.
Frat boys and the entire fraternity system actually advocate for just the opposite. Exclusivity and privilege are inherent in their shabby concept of “Greek” brotherhood. Each little club-play pretends like its special and unique and only grants membership based on each aspiring individual’s specialness and uniqueness. Except no one who is impressed or susceptible to the entire charade is special or unique in any profound or meaningful way. Special, unique people don’t travel in superficial, exclusivist, chauvinistic or classist circles. Special, unique individuals usually go their own way, without self-insistent delusions of their own worth and entitlement.
Why do I bring this up? Brace yourself.
There are roughly 310 million people in the United States as you read this. Less than one percent of us are frat boys. The first social fraternity was formed in 1825. Since that first superficial incarnation, all but two U.S. presidents and two U.S. vice presidents have been frat boys.
Eighty-five percent of all U.S. Supreme Court Justices in the last 100 years were frat boys. Forty-three of the nation’s 50 largest corporations are headed by frat boys. And seventy-six percent of all sitting U.S. Congressmen and Senators — you know, that gridlocked, purblind, quasi-legislative branch of our government — are frat boys.
If you went to college and you weren’t in a fraternity, you probably have a better idea of why our country is in shambles. You recognize the unimpressive, superficial lads at the helm as the same frat boys who valued toadyism over transcendence back then, and you have a historical perspective in your understanding of why they prefer cronyism over qualification today. Frat boys have always thought they were better than the rest of us and entitled to more than rest of us, and the current have to have-not ratio perfectly reflects their world view.
In college, if you showed up at one of their parties uninvited or were invited but deigned to question or challenge their sense of superiority or entitlement, especially in front of their “brothers” or prospective, drunken conquests, you were likely to take a collective beating. Nothing has changed. Ask Move-On.Org activist Lauren Valle. Ask outed CIA agent Valerie Plame or her husband Joe Wilson. Ask the seven U.S. Attorneys (all Republicans) that the Bush Administration fired because they refused to pursue politically-motivated investigations of Democratic politicians. Ask current Secretary of Veterans Affairs and former Army Chief of Staff, General Eric Shinsecki; he was denounced by the Rumsfeld-Cheney Iraq “War Room” when he suggested we weren’t sending enough troops in the initial phases of the campaign.
It’s the frat boy way. If you don’t fall in line, you take a fall or get felled. And they get away with it because they have their manicured fingers in every aspect of our governance.
They expect deferential treatment and they get it because the race is rigged in their favor. The climb to the top is almost impossible unless you’re one of them or play by their rules. They’ve greased every rung on the ladder and, unless you’re pretty slimy yourself, it’s practically impossible to navigate.
Which makes President Obama exceedingly interesting. Whether you like or dislike him, he’s one of the two presidents in the last 185 years that didn’t spring from the privileged ranks of frat boy frivolity. That makes him one of us. That makes him different and that makes him dangerous. Of course, frat boys and their hapless minions want to see his birth certificate. Of course, they want us demanding our country back. It belongs to them and Obama is a problematic exception to their rule. But even he is surrounded by frat boys.
We don’t have a two-party political system in this country. We have a frat boy entitlement program. That’s why our real problems and concerns are so rarely represented, respected or addressed.