This morning I ran across two news stories that caused me to have a serious geezer moment. You know what a geezer moment is; that's when you find yourself shaking your head at the behavior or taste of the next generation and mutter something about "kids today" and "the decline of civilization." My first geezer moments came when I was in college and disco appeared. Now that I'm an embittered old greybeard, I have them fairly frequently. Usually my wife, who knew me in college, shut me up by pointing out some analogous stupidity of our peers (or mine) back then.
While unpacking my bag lunch, I saw these two headlines on CNN: "Illinois district faces new hazing scandal" and "Sorority women told to lie to give blood." The first story is pretty simple:
GLENVIEW, Illinois (AP) -- Eleven lacrosse players at a suburban Chicago high school should be expelled for allegedly paddling 13 new team members at an off-campus hazing incident that involved underage drinking, administrators said.
The school is in the same district as the high school involved in a notorious, widely televised hazing incident last year.
Last year about this time, Glenbrook North High gained international notariety when a video of a "powderpuff" event was discovered that showed girls being beaten and covered with garbage, mud and poop as drunken jocks looked on and cheered. Thirty-three seniors were expelled, 20 juniors disciplined, 16 of the students were convicted of battery or alcohol charges, and two of their mothers were convicted of providing alcohol to minors. So naturally the reaction of the Glenbrook South lacrosse team was "cool, we gotta do that."
Meanwhile in Missouri, college students were conspiring to contaminate our nation's blood supply in order to win a contest.
The American Red Cross tells those who are sick or have recently received tattoos or piercings not to donate blood, both to protect the health of donors and to lessen the risk of transmitting diseases to recipients.
But sorority members at the University of Missouri-Columbia -- a school that once set a world record for blood collection -- were urged by a fellow member to lie about their health.
In an e-mail sent last Tuesday to about 170 members of Gamma Phi Beta, sophomore Christie Key, the chapter's blood donation coordinator, wrote: "I dont (sic) care if you got a tattoo last week LIE. I dont (sic) care if you have a cold. Suck it up. We all do. LIE. Recent peircings (sic)? LIE."
She added: "Even if youre (sic) going to use the Do Not Use My Blood sticker, GIVE ANYWAY." Donors who have second thoughts at the donation site can discreetly attach a sticker to a health questionnaire indicating their blood shouldn't be used.
In her e-mail, Key wrote: "We're not messing around. Punishment for not giving blood is going to be quite severe."
Of course, my characterizing it as conspiracy is a bit over the top (though technically correct if anyone actually followed her orders). While the behavior of the Glenbrook South lacrosse team--stupid youthful violence in the name of tradition or something--is beyond disgusting, Key's letter is creepy. For the sake of a contest, she wants her sisters to endanger the health and possibly lives of total strangers. She has no idea where the blood is going to go. Will it go to premature babies, wounded vets, someone's grandmother? Her only defense against depraved indifference is her acknowledgement that they might use the "Do Not Use My Blood" sticker. That, however, is not given to the sisters in the same tone, as an order.
I think my wife would have no trouble convincing me that our peers were just as bad as the Glenbrook South lacrosse team. I can think of plenty of highschool jock and college frat hazing stories just as bad and a few worse. That crap has gone on for centuries and shows no sign of fading. The Gamma Phi Beta letter, on the other hand, is once in a generation bad. That's the kind of behavior that sets a generational benchmark for irresponsibility.