See You in Baghdad, Boys

See You in Baghdad, Boys

I’m being a little unfair about this, but a few days ago walking down from my house across the campus of the university I live near, I noticed this young man in front of me. He was dressed, as young men do nowadays, in shorts and an Abercrombie shirt. It was then I thought, "He must be a frat boy and a Republican." After that, I had to fight the urge to tell him, “Ready for the draft?”

Short of asking him, there’s clearly no way of knowing if he’s either a frat boy or a Republican, but I wouldn’t be surprised if most fraternities weren’t young members of the GOP. Affluent, bored and concerned with partying, frat boys are often the bane of the college experience for the rest of us who had no interest in rushing a fraternity or dating the girls of Kappa Kappa Gamma. With a mixture of contempt or indifference, us non-Greeks merely regard fraternities and sororities as part of college wonder years.

But I digress. There is a fraternity near my house with windows covered in “Bush-Cheney” posters, and no shortage of expensive cars with Bush stickers next to the Kappa Kappa Gamma symbols. Seeing these things made me wonder: just how informed are frats? Are they really committed to seeing Bush in a second term because of their political views? Do they like the direction the country is headed in? Do they know which direction the country is headed in? Universities are routinely trashed by the right-wing as nothing but bastions of liberalism, but nobody seems to question how staid institutions like Greek organizations form their ideology. Are they all liberal? With the booze perhaps, but frats are never confused with being leftist hangouts. If anything, fraternities are reflections of conservative thinking that might be at odds with concepts of social progress and equality -- you know, those liberal values that always threaten middle America.

This isn’t to say that individual fraternity members aren’t liberal or progressive in their personal choices, but as a group, where does the political philosophy come from? The most likely answer is the parents, but then you have to ask if any Greek members actually sit and make their own choices. It may reflect a bias on my part, but Greek organizations strike me as being little conformist factories: you pay for your friends and you get thrust into an insulated little world that has no understanding of the larger world outside. It’s all about networking and back-scratching, the proverbial old boys network. (No wonder Bush is their hero.) And in this gated community, how much independent thought is there?

Now the reason I mentioned the young man at the start of this article is because I wondered what he thought about the war in Iraq. If he was a frat boy and ergo, a Republican, what did he think about war protesters? About the invasion in general? In the campus newspaper, there’s been a few samples of what some young men think of those who oppose the war: mindless do-gooders who give aid and comfort to the enemy. Those are charges straight out of the Republican playbook, to be sure, but I immediately thought: why don’t you sign up? If College Republicans are to carry the conservative ideology of their parents and other benefactors, then why don’t they give all the traitors a lesson civic duty and sign up? Demonstrate that you love your country and get yourself to the recruitment center or ROTC.

But those who preach patriotism are usually the last to practice it, and I wouldn’t expect Republican frat boys to sign up any more than I would expect the anthrax terrorist to be caught. So, here we have conservative values in a nutshell: accuse the opposition of treason, but fail to sign up and fight. Send others to die for you, but make sure you look contrite about fallen heroes and the like. Greek organizations usually contend that they do public service and I believe this, but a few fund raisers for the homeless or picking up trash on a weekend can’t possibly instill the kind of civic duty they’re so busy accusing us of shirking. If these people are the leaders of tomorrow, then they should lead by example and put the hand-wringing do-gooders to shame by signing up and going to Baghdad.

At least before the draft sends them there.