Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The Time for Finger Wagging is Now

From the warm-up room, Lilly King watched her fellow competitor, Yulia Efimova,  win a qualifying heat.  Efimova had been busted for doping months before and almost excluded from the games.  But she wasn’t, and she won her heat, and in her celebration, wagged her finger in confidence.

The culturally-acceptable response to this gesture would have been for King to silently ignore it, quietly prepare for the finals, defeat her opponent in battle, and then calmly accept the win with unspoken pride.  That would have been satisfying.

But her response instead was to wag her finger back at that screen, call out the competitor for this brazen act that disgraced her sport, keep the pressure on for a whole day, beat her solidly in the race, and wag her finger in victory as a sign to the world that we needn’t worry: cheaters weren’t going to win on her watch.  It was bold, raised eyebrows, and may have crossed over the edge of good sportsmanship.  But it was even more satisfying.

In fraternity life, we have silent warriors ethically leading their fraternities without any boasting.  Meanwhile, arrogant organizations that are disgracing the movement with their acceptance of hazing, binge drinking, and other damaging behaviors run rampant like poster children for Total Frat Move.  In essence, cheating their way through and wagging their finger as if they accomplished something profound.  

And the good fraternities – those that are trying to live their values – know they are there.  They know the “cheating” that’s taking place.  But what’s valued is to stoically fight wrong behaviors with right ones, and to politely ignore the cheaters.  Just go about our business and take care of our own house.

Perhaps the time to be stoic has passed.  Maybe the choice to stay silent is the wrong one. Perhaps King  upended our notions that it should all just be solved in the field of play.
Perhaps it’s time to answer their wagging fingers with our own. For those men and women who are doing it right to step forward, and essentially tell those that aim to disgrace the institution we hold dear to eff off. 

When will enough be enough?  All of the talk, education, and planning done by national offices and campus staff means nothing if the undergraduates don’t step forward and own the future of their fraternities. 

And that can be done quietly or with swagger.  Quietly doesn’t seem to be working for the most part. Maybe we should give swagger a fighting chance.

This means that IFC meetings shouldn’t just be polite passings of updates and announcements, but rather, poignant and free discussions on the challenges facing the greater community. And thus, uncomfortable for the cheaters.

It means that when you see something, say something.  Not with a whisper, but with a wham.  No great movements ever whispered their way to victory.

Now, tact does matter.  Lilly King didn’t storm up to her competitor and fill her face full of expletives and spittle.  But her opinion was made clear nonetheless and with force.  If you believe in fraternity and the sanctity of this movement, and you are aware that there are those attempting to dismantle it through their words and deeds, then ask yourself if your feelings are apparent to others.  And if not, why are you hiding them?

It’s the launch of the Fall semester, and there is no better time to take back our fraternity movement.  Let’s do it with attitude.  The time for finger-wagging is now.