Think back to 1965 if you can. I suspect some readers of this post weren’t even born then. But in that year I was seventeen, a first-year student at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. I had skipped one year of school, so I was a year younger than most of my fellow frosh. I had also graduated at the top of my high school class, and was headed into the first year of an Honors program in Mathematics. I loved music, and was devoted to my church.
Some of my high school colleagues were “rushed” by fraternities at U. of A. Not wanting to be left out, I went with them to a couple of rush parties, and experienced something close to outright disdain, as in “Who the heck are you, and what are you doing here?” It wasn’t a lot of fun. Some of my friends ended up as frat members, and for a while I was deeply envious. Until…
I started hearing stories about how they behaved at their parties, and how women were treated there. Do you know what a “Purple Jesus” is? Neither did I, but apparently it was a standard ruse to get young women drunk and take advantage of them. (It’s a mixture of port wine and vodka, BTW).
As I started to get into U. life, I found friends and like-minded people in choral, religious, and political circles. I sang, I prayed with people, and I was drawn into the peace movement of the late ’60’s. I lost touch with my high school friends who had joined fraternities, most of them with the avowed aim of making connections to get ahead in the future.
Clearly, I wasn’t welcome at those rush parties, and I couldn’t figure out why at the time. It seems I was a bit too much of a nerd, although that word wasn’t current at the time. I suspect also that my family didn’t have the “right” connections. My father was well-respected in medical circles, but we had no real roots in Alberta, having only arrived in Canada from the U.K. in 1952.
I have come to see the culture of those fraternities as part of the disease infecting our society. It’s a culture of entitlement: male, white, and connected. It is full of misogyny, racism, and “good-ol’-boy” thinking. I went my own way in University days and afterward, and ceased to have any real connection with that part of life. I have no regrets, as I have worked to build a life based on respect for ALL people, which eventually led me into the vocation I followed for most of my adult life.
I retired as a priest of the Anglican Church of Canada in 2013, having held a number of responsible positions in that church, but all the while refusing the attitude of entitlement that I found in many of my co-religionists.
Which brings me to this past couple of weeks, watching the spectacle of the confirmation hearings for Brett Kavanaugh, now sworn in as a Justice of the Supreme Court of the USA. The process made me glad that I live in Canada, where the judiciary is far less politicized than in the U.S. The way the process worked out both astonished and appalled me: the duplicity evinced by partisans on both sides was almost beyond belief. But what struck me more than anything else was the attitude displayed by the nominee. He’s a frat boy, I realized. And in some ways that says it all. He is there because he’s entitled to be there, whether or not he has abused other people on the way to where he has arrived. For the record, I believe Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony to the Senate committee.
These events took me back to the humiliation I experienced at those rush parties, where the people in charge looked at me as less than them, and derided me for who I was.
Does Brett Kavanaugh deserve to be where he is now? Many people seem to think so. But for me, his elevation to such a high office is further testimony to how warped our society has become. I know I’m writing from Canada, where we do not have such a process, but it is clear to me that we are not immune to this kind of entitlement thinking.
I look for the day when our courts are visibly representative of, and speak to, all segments of our society, especially those who have been seen as underclasses in the past and still today. I think particularly of women, Indigenous people, the poor, the LBGTQB2+ community, religious minorities, racial minorities, immigrants of all origins, and all who have felt the sting of not being entitled.
I follow the way of Jesus, the one who came to invite all people into the Kingdom of the God whom he called “Abba.” No-one should be excluded, just as no-one should believe themselves entitled to inclusion.
We are all here and beloved by the Grace of God. May our courts and our legislatures live by that truth.