I sometimes have to take a break from straight educational topics to clear my mind on related topics. A few months ago our community, Clemson University, and our state has experienced a heartbreaking loss with the death of Tucker Hipps during a fraternity pledge activity. While all the detail are not in as of yet, the circumstances are worrisome–if not for out-and-out hazing, at the very least for allowing a culture to exist where thoughtless cruelty is accepted and promoted. I recently read a book, Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell, that gives an account of the punishing training period that a Navy Seal must endure, and for good reason. The difference in that circumstance is that the training is intended to prepare for future survival in life-threatening circumstances, which proved to be necessary for the author’s survival. It seems that the nature of the human heart is toward evil, and as history has shown over and over again, left unchecked it will surface.
I did not personally know Tucker Hipps, but my son did–Tucker was my son’s senior counselor at Palmetto Boys State this year. By all accounts, Tucker was an impressive young man, a great example and leader for those coming behind him, and my son’s life was enriched by having crossed paths with Tucker. His life and death are a reminder of the frailty of life and nearness of our own mortality. I would hope that all would reexamine the extent to which we will go to ‘belong’……or the extent to which we will allow that human nature to guide our actions. For kids of all ages, especially high school and college students, I beg you to remember that there is no group whose inclusion is so important that you foolishly risk your own life or that of another. These activities are but a moment out of your whole lifetime, do not let it cost you your life.
There are areas in our society where a culture of cruelty exists–protected by archaic traditions and lack of oversight–you have all heard the stories from military schools, fraternities, and other college organizations. You don’t have to look very far into world history to see that this is not a new phenomena–Nazi Germany, ISIS, and the Roman Empire under Nero–the nature of the human heart is inherently evil. This should be a wake-up call for all such organizations and prompt a new commitment to moral leadership and oversight by the adults in charge. The invincibility mindset of youth does not recognize and fear how quickly something can go wrong. While we may not be able to change nations and governments, we can start with our schools and our own kids. Belonging to a group should not cost you your self-respect….or your life. My goal and my prayer is that we can teach our kids not to let others define them, not by outward appearance, memberships, personalities or test scores. Carpe diem, the time is short. Check out the Huffington Post article.