Thursday, December 15, 2011

Unpopular things that need to be said about the hazing incident at FAMU

First of all I have to say I am truly saddened by the loss the family of Robert Champion has endured. It is truly tragic when I young life is prematurely ended for any reason. I think many are finding solace in that it is shinning the light on a tradition that has being going on for years and definitely needs to be addressed.

That being said I think there are important parts of the discussion that are being left unsaid.

First off there is a difference between a victim and a participant. If a person is walking down the street and some nefarious character jumps out of the shadows and beats you, then you are a victim of assault. On the other hand if you sneak out in the black of the night to go to a secret meeting where you know you will be beat, and you submit yourself to dangerous activities then you are a participant in that activity. Both end in injury, but only one scenario has a victim.

Some have suggested that Mr. Champion and other participants in hazing rituals, though willing participants, aren't responsible for their actions because of the intense peer pressure they face trying to gain acceptance by those already in the organization. Some have even gone as far as to liken the drive to belong to these organizations to a woman who is an a abusive relationship. It has been said that a woman in an abusive relationship is so endeared to the abuser that she submits to and even defends her attacker. And so will people desperately trying to gain social acceptance to various organizations

However the analogy lacks validity for two reasons. One dating is not an illegal activity you don't enter into a relationship knowing that you are doing something you shouldn't be doing. However the same cannot be said about hazing. All participants, the hazer and hazed, know they are doing something illegal. In most cases they have signed documents acknowledging not only will they not participate in hazing, but also that they would report it if they encounter it. I don't think any rational woman would date a man if he handed her a paper saying "Warning I may beat you"

The second reason dovetails from the first. Since the activity is illegal how is peer pressure a justifiable excuse for breaking the law? What other crime can you commit and blame peer pressure: burglary, drug trafficking, prostitution? Could a person who is found with a stolen TV in his car stand in front of a jury and say he stole these things to fit in with his friends expect leniency for his crimes? That was rhetorical, ignorance of the law isn't even a justifiable defense in a court of law in America; so peer pressure definitely can't be.

Speaking of peer pressure, Mr. Champion was a 26 year old man, and a drummajor. That is important for two reasons. As a 26 year old he was not a child. The 19 year olds he allowed to haze him are children. He was an adult (at 26 I was in residency responsible for lives of my patients). As an adult he should have been setting the example for the youth other parents assumed a leader of the band would set. The responsibility goes even farther in that he was a drummajor, a designated leader of the band.

Another issue I would like to address is the school's culpability in this manner. Again it depends on the details of what happened, and I admit what I say here maybe later not the case. But if the case is that Mr. Champion allowed himself to be hazed is the school responsible?

I have heard the argument that the school knew about the culture of hazing on its campus therefore it was negligent in protecting the students from hazing. I agree that the school has a responsibility to protect its students, and I fully understand America's outrage at the perception that the school should have done more to ensure Mr. Champion's safety. And if it turns out the school was negligent in anyway to protect that safety they should be held accountable.

But what if the school provided anti-hazing workshops to educate the students on what hazing is and what to do if you encounter it, and all members of the band sign documents acknowledging they understand these rules; and what if the school appropriately disciplines all students found to be participating in any of these activities--if all this is true what else could have been done?

Would we be having this same conversation if Mr. Champion had overdosed on heroin, even if a fellow student had sold it to him? Of course we would still be saddened by the loss of life. And yes, we would still want justice brought to those who supplied the illegal drugs. But we would be openly acknowledging the bad decisions that also contributed to his untimely death and we would be only holding those directly involved in the transaction responsible.

Suing a school because you got hurt by the hazing you chose to participate in, is like suing your drug dealer because your crack made your teeth fall out. If you decide to smoke crack and you overdose you don't get to sue your drug dealer. So how come you can if you choose to submit yourself to hazing and you get hurt?

I am not trying to vilify Mr. Champion. His death is a tragedy that should not have occurred. Nor I am in anyway trying to justify the practices that ultimately led to his death. However, I do not believe we can begin to have an honest discussion about how to end hazing with out addressing all of the issues in the problem.

Educating the public against the dangers of breaking a law and punishing those who break it are about the only two things a society can do to protect its citizens. You can't punish with out educating, nor can just punish some involved and not others; and expect your solutions to work. And despite doing both of those well, there will be times a society still breaks those rules.

Just make sense to me

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Why I Dont Care About Anthony's Weiner, and Neither Should You

I think it is sad state of being to have to admit my wife has probably seen Anthony Wiener's penis more times in the last week than mine. I mean that thing has been everywhere the last week. I think yesterday it surpassed Hannity as the biggest dick on the air.

But, I don't understand why this is a scandal. If I were his wife, I would get it. You sent half naked pictures to bunch of women....scandalous. But I am not his wife, so why do I care which part of his anatomy he sent to which person? Oh, I understand why politicians make a spectacle about it. Using any chance to use any situation as an opportunity to shift political leverage makes sense, politically. I get that, but what I don't understand is why the American people go for it every time.

This isn't a partisan issue for me, it isn't even a political issue. I said the same thing about all the hoopla made over Brett Farves 'friend' showing up all over cyberspace and in punditry. People's personal life and professional life should be separate, but we don't allow that. Why?

Honestly, the last time you went to Subways and ordered a sandwich were you more concerned with how well your sandwich was made, or whether or not your "sandwich artist" had looked at porn the night before? I am betting you were watching your food. And you should be. What does what Jared did when he is at home have to do with making me a 5 dollar footlong? Absolutely nothing. So why is it we get so concerned about what other people in other professions are doing in their personal lives?

Personally I think it is because we all need to get a life. Or specifically pay more attention to the one we have and not the one we feel we should. I guess I need to clarify. The reason we hold these celebrities, preachers, politicians, athletes etc to these higher moral standards is we know we could never obtain them ourselves. We project these subconscious desires for moral perfection, we unconsciously know are unobtainable, on to external representations of ourselves and call them "role models"

So when these role models inevitably fail, they become representations of our own failures. But since we cant vilify our own iniquities we turn on our fallen heroes with a righteous indignation. I mean who wants to look at mirror when they can look out a window?

The psychology of it makes for excellent mechanism to distract people, but it shouldn't. If you are an athlete all I want you to do is show up an score points. If you are an actor all I want you to do is show up and entertain me. If you are a politician all I want you to do is show up and vote the way you said you would. What depraved thing you do on you own time does not, should not concern me; unless it interferes with you showing up and doing said task.

Role models will all at some point fail us in some way. I wonder why this is surprising to anyone. Human nature is predictable. No one is above it. Politicians, athletes, preachers, actors, etc are just people and are going to make the same mistakes that all people make. I think the folly in all of this is that we as a society expect them to be superhuman in their ability not to.

Common Sense to me.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Why is it constitutional to force doctors to treat someone, but unconstitutional to ask people to pay?

Not a long one from me today, but a serious question. Everyone has the right to emergent health care. No ER can turn anyone around based on their ability to pay. Which means that the law is forcing physicians to provide a service to people regardless of their ability to pay. And this is true if you go to a private ER or Public so you cant say people's taxes help prop this.

So it is ok, nay constitutional, to force private citizens to perform a public service, yet one cornerstone of the argument against the health care reform is that it is unconstitutional to require individuals to buy insurance that would cover their utilization of this service? What about the people: nurses, doctors, and administrators, responsible for providing that service? Why do they bare all the responsibility for the cost of providing these services, but not the people utilizing them? I don't understand.

Right now there is much debate about protecting the individuals right to their financial sovereignty. Some argue "The government has no right to make someone buy a product", right. (I don't get since I have to buy car insurance). But if it is the case and the government shouldn't be saying how we spend money, shouldn't they also not be allowed to say what service private citizens and businesses provide?

I don't think most people would argue that we should turn away people in emergent situations. Most feel as a society we owe it to people to provide them life saving measures when needed. But let's keep the equation fair. If we feel this is something we as a society should be providing our citizens, let's be equitable about how we spread the burden of providing these services. Or we could decide as a society we don't want to provide that service at all. After all if you are starving, there is no law saying a restaurant should feed you, our medical system could work the same way. If some had their way it would.....