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Re: The TBDBITL situation

I was a member of the marching band every year in high school, and I loved almost every minute of it, and even though I didn’t enjoy my college marching experience enough to continue past freshman year, I still made some really great friends and had some good times. (Because marching band was my life in high school but something I mostly left on the practice field in college, pretty much all references in this post to my personal experience with band will be drawn from high school.)

I will be the first to admit that marching band culture as a rule is inherently sexualized…when you have that many teenagers and/or twenty-somethings spending that much time together, there will be innuendos and dirty jokes and the occasional inappropriate nicknames and whatnot. We called the trombones “boners” and asked people to be our “hookers” to fasten the hooks at the collars of our uniforms. On the flip side, however, certain things that might have been considered sexual outside of the band were just utilitarian actions in a band context, such as sitting on someone’s lap or huddling under a blanket with someone to keep warm at a late October game, regardless of the involved people’s genders. And changing clothes on the bus was no big deal. We always made an effort to give people privacy, and I never recall anyone indicating that they felt uncomfortable.

I was blessed with excellent band directors who worked very hard to make marching band both educational and enjoyable for everyone involved. They were respected and well-liked by all the students, but if a situation came down to a choice between making an important leadership decision or being friendly toward a student, they would make the important leadership decision, hands down. The directors’ promotion of a safe, welcoming, inclusive environment for all students inspired us to uphold that environment for each other. They might roll their eyes at “boners” or “hookers,” but any sexually explicit behavior or language beyond that level was immediately taken care of. (I can really only remember one instance of truly inappropriate behavior in the band room: When we got new uniforms, the first garment bags we had were just flimsy plastic sheets with holes in the top for the hangers. There was one guy (a trumpet player, unsurprisingly) who liked to put the garment bag over his head, wiggle around, and then jump and spit through the hole, imitating a condom-covered penis. I found it mildly amusing, but also pretty uncomfortable, and I strongly remember the band directors shutting the guy down every time.) Additionally, if the band directors had been aware of ANY alcohol or drug abuse on the part of their students, they would have reported it immediately.

I read the 23-page report that was released by OSU today about the investigation into the OSU Marching Band culture. As both a long-time band geek and a four-year Certified Peer Educator in college (meaning that I received lots of training and education about alcohol abuse and sexual harassment-type situations), I have to agree with the decision to fire OSUMB director Jon Waters. It’s pretty clear that the culture of sexualization in the OSUMB is extreme and in some instances seriously harassing, and it’s pretty clear that Waters was well aware of the situation and did little to rectify it. TBDBITL is a very large marching band, and I’m sure most of the inappropriate language and behaviors cited in the report were not practiced by all the members, but the fact that such instances occurred at all, let alone repeatedly, indicates a really big problem.

I don’t care very much about OSU at all, except for the marching band, but living where I live, it’s nearly impossible to hear about everything that goes on there, on the news and in newspapers and on Facebook and talking to friends. I haven’t been a big fan of some of the decisions made by OSU in recent years, such as those regarding Jim Tressel and E. Gordon Gee. I’ve never met Jon Waters, and I have friends who are OSUMB alumni and are very upset about the school’s decision today, but I can’t help feeling that the problematic TBDBITL culture would only have gotten worse if Waters had been allowed to stay on.

As a marching band member, I always had three objectives: 1. To put on the best performance I possibly could; 2. To represent my ensemble, my school, my school district, and my community in a positive light to everyone around me; and 3. To make every member of the band feel included and respected. From what I’ve read today, TBDBITL as a whole has been excelling at the first objective but failing at the last two. I really hope that with this change in leadership and closer monitoring from the university, the OSUMB can turn itself around and become truly worthy of the moniker “The Best Damn Band in the Land.”


Anonymous asked:

"It's a metaphor" I have no doubt that you completely understand and stand by this statement that the act of putting an unlit cigarette in Augustus Waters' mouth is in fact a metaphor. But for some folks, we don't see it asa metaphor, we see it as situational irony, or a simple statement. Please explain how it is a metaphor.


Well, a character in a novel saying that something is a metaphor is not the same thing as the author of the novel saying that it’s a metaphor. Gus’s intellectual grasp often exceeds his reach (he calls a monologue a soliloquy, and misuses quite a few of the bigger words in his vocabulary). But I do think the cigarette is a metaphor, albeit a different one for us than it is for him.

Gus’s idea is that the cigarette is a metaphor for illness, and he keeps it unlit and in his mouth as an expression of his power over illness. “You put the killing thing between your teeth but you don’t give it the power to do its killing.” Gus’s thinking here is that HE has the power. This is why he tends to use the cigarette when he’s feeling nervous or powerless. (He’s also using the most famous commercially available carcinogen to make this statement, so obviously there’s a connection there in his mind: Humans can prevent cancer by not smoking; cancer is something we can have power over; your job is not to give cancer the power to kill you; etc.) 

But of course Gus is wrong about all of this, or at least almost all of it. You may have SOME control over whether you die of cancer (you can choose not to smoke), but in most cases humans don’t have control over illness. “You don’t give it the power to do its killing” imagines more agency over illness than we actually have, because in the end much of the fault is in the stars, not in ourselves. So to us, the unlit cigarette is a metaphor for our false perception of control, and our urgent need to feel in control. It’s no coincidence, then, that when Gus’s life is spiraling out of control and he finds himself powerless before fate, he tries (and fails) to buy cigarettes.

We are all going, I thought, and it applies to turtles and turtle necks, Alaska the girl and Alaska the place, because nothing can last, not even the earth itself. The Buddha said that suffering was caused by desire, we’d learned, and that the cessation of desire meant the cessation of suffering. When you stopped wishing things wouldn’t fall apart, you’d stop suffering when they did.
John Green; Looking for Alaska  (via epicjohngreenquotes)
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