Our thoughts on the NBC Dateline Hazing StoryNBC is looking for a few good men to replace the whiners that assembled that lame piece on Marine Corps hazing. For those of you living in a cave I'll back-fill:
For as far back as anyone can remember Marine Gold-wingers, SEALS, Submariners, Rangers and a whole slew of other special forces with something to prove have been initiating new members with some form of pinning ceremony. This involves drinking to the point of clinical numbness and having your newly earned chest insignia shoved into your flesh without the benefit of those little brass backing things that I am always losing.
Yesterdays initiation is todays national news story of barbarism and torture thanks to a few minutes of video shot in 1991 that was allowed into the hands of NBC producers, this sacred ritual is now getting the attention of the new Secretary of Defense. A two star general whined into the camera that this behavior could not be tolerated. Where have you been general? The interviewer may have believed you and for the most part the public will believe but the rest of us no you're full of shit. It¹s been tolerated throughout all the services for decades.
Recently a sailor committed suicide because after participating in a pinning ceremony (as the pinee) he refused to rat out the people who did it and the entire crew was punished. That got a paragraph in the Navy Times. So why all the sudden interest in something that has been going on as long as there have been chest insignias? --Video.
America is a sucker for a few feet of tape. All over the country cops beat the shit put of suspects and nobody minds a bit but when somebody captures 30 seconds on the old Sony, Rodney King is a household name. Lesson learned? Never bring a video camera to an event the public might not approve of.
I am not defending hazing in all forms. From time to time a new kid checks in who is just is not one of the guys. He becomes morale gear and one day after he¹s been stripped naked and hung by his ankles one time too many he writes that last letter home and kills himself. Those are tragic stories and the people involved should be punished, (including the recruiter who signed up the poor child).
But when a young man decides he wants to be a Marine and then decides he wants to be a marine who jumps out of perfectly good airplanes, having a few pins shoved into his chest are the least of his problems. Compared to having your body ripped to shreds by ground fire as you parachute to earth, the pinning ceremony is quite civilized.
In the coming days senior officers will write memos and congressmen will ask questions and everyone will pretend they are appalled and determined to make changes. They will have some limited success. In many places pinning ceremonies will go the way of the chiefs initiation and the public will move on to the next OJ trial. Still the society will expect barbarism on demand the next time a Saddam threatens the price of unleaded. And we will deliver.
"A Few Good Men", the movie, was extraordinarily inaccurate but Jack Nicholson was right when he said "You can't handle the truth".