History-making music group for UMM - morris mn

History-making music group for UMM - morris mn
The UMM men's chorus opened the Minnesota Day program at the 1962 Seattle World's Fair (Century 21 Exposition).

Monday, May 18, 2015

Book review: "Missoula" by the eminent Jon Krakauer

I would argue it's impossible to launch into a review of Jon Krakauer's "Missoula" in a bright frame of mind. There are no winners here. Many might argue that a reformed sense of justice can make you feel upbeat. I don't.
Is there anything in the world more messy than allegations of acquaintance rape? How does one distill the facts? How would you like to deal with this matter on college campuses today? How can these adjudicators possibly get paid enough? They are dealing with murky situations out of which grow such allegations. The punishment for an alleged perpetrator is incredibly severe. How can we mete out such punishment when the incidents are amidst incredibly gray area? If even one man has his life ruined by specious allegations, that's enough to profoundly disturb me.
Author with fine track record
I became a fan of Krakauer's writing with his book "Into Thin Air." We could remember that book recently with the earthquakes that rattled Nepal. "Into Thin Air" was about climbing Mount Everest. That book gave us the conclusion that climbing to such a high altitude was sheer peril. Please, if you need a hobby, put aside any obsession you have to climb Mount Everest, and choose instead to build model airplanes. Be sure the room is ventilated.
I have been interested in Krakauer's work ever since "Into Thin Air." He is a superb wordsmith. I don't always agree with him. In "Into the Wild," he supports the premise that the tragic young man, who tried escaping into the Alaska wilderness to achieve solitude or whatever, was not mentally ill, counter to the conclusion of others. My opinion was that he was mentally ill. Therefore I find the idea of a book less compelling. Krakauer dismissed the essence of what the young man was seeking to accomplish, by saying that the place where the man settled "wasn't that remote by Alaska standards."
I saw Krakauer discuss the book "Missoula" on a C-Span channel recently. This made me want to seek the book out through our public library. My takeaway from the book? It isn't that I'm inclined to take sides, generally speaking, with certain specific parties in these ugly situations. Krakauer bends over backward to defend the females. This is the attitude of feminists and of people generally on the left side of the political spectrum.
Such people vilify George Will, a conservative who famously made comments that challenge Krakauer's perspective. I am a Democrat and would place myself on the left side of political thinking. Please consider that I strive to be a fair-minded and reasonable person. But I am in the George Will camp on this.
Will is also known to be skeptical of college as an institution - its future. College is where so many of these confounding stories of alleged acquaintance rape happen. I came away from Krakauer's book not so much wanting to take sides with the girls or boys, but with questioning our model for higher education. People's lives can easily get ruined or scarred by these episodes of allegedly improper behavior.
With less than a 100 percent command of the facts, how can we make such judgments?
Why not make better decisions?
Reading some of the episodes in Krakauer's book, I have to wonder: if only these females had just decided to stay home that evening, engaging in healthy and constructive activities: reading, spending time on the computer and going to bed at a decent hour. If only they had chosen not to go to some wild "party" involving college youth with hormones raging, consuming alcohol and ingesting drugs, getting so "wasted" they decide they cannot even go home. So they "crash" on someone's couch.
Later, they emerge from what they describe as an unconscious state, in the midst of a sex act with a male peer. They might allege that the male "forced them" to perform oral sex. This is an accusation that I have always found puzzling. The ugly circumstances of these encounters makes me not want to sympathize with anyone, and I'm shocked that Krakauer would so readily give the benefit of the doubt to the females, when you consider the life-ruining consequences of punishing the males.
Rape is most definitely a real phenomenon. The case studies in "Missoula" do not conform to my understanding of the crime. College youth who choose to be at a particular party and choose to limit their judgment and faculties with unhealthy substances, don't win much sympathy from me.
So, I'm taking my argument in a different direction than what a typical reader of this book would likely take. I'm criticizing the manner in which many of our youth ages 18 to 22 live.
The pressure is high to "attend college." We talk about "good colleges" as if a whole lot of them are "bad." Chutzpah is involved. "This college has the best (so-and-so) department in the nation" etc. Young men get recruited for football. Schools with a football reputation really thump their chest.
What exactly is proven by having a good football team? The experience of playing football actually leaves many of its participants beat up physically and possibly mentally. A winning team gives its school bragging rights. It proves nothing except that a school allocated resources sufficient to attract a good number of big, strong and fast young men.
Football has a role in "Missoula." We read about the local college that treats football way out of proportion. Players at such a place develop a sense of entitlement that can be very dangerous for them. The "fans" don't understand the brittle nature of these young men, men who can get drawn into situations where they might crumble. The igniting factor can be alcohol. How, how pervasive alcohol can be among college youth. When I was in college, we were reveling in the lowered drinking age. The explanation was that if young men could fight and die in Viet Nam in their late teens, well, youth ought to have the "privilege" of consuming alcohol. Society has wised up some.
The crux of the matter
The fundamental problem is that we have these beehive places called college campuses where these immature young people congregate, and then we expect them to behave responsibly and like adults. Many of them don't. My takeaway is that our society needs a whole new model, away from college, as a proper place in the immediate post-high school years.
All those boys and girls who get in trouble in "Missoula": how much better off they'd all be if they had just stayed at home living with parents for a few years. They'd be contributing family members. As far as getting the knowledge needed for a career, well, today we have the Internet. All the information in the world is online. Certainly we can create a way for young people to progress toward a career, given this asset.
So many 18-year-olds simply aren't prepared to live on their own. We expect them to magically accomplish this after leaving the house. Not only do they lack many of the skills, they easily succumb to whims to engage in unacceptable behavior. The young men who appear "guilty" in "Missoula" may be victims of this unrealistic system. They may be victims of our model of putting football players on a pedestal. Counseling might help a lot of these young people. But in many cases it might not come in time. A boy yields to the momentary inclinations of that age and does something that he knows down deep is improper.
If allegations are subsequently made, his life could be over for all practical purposes. His potential to be a normally productive citizen as an adult is snuffed out.
There is such a thing as forcible rape where it's a no-brainer to put the guy in jail and throw away the key. Acquaintance rape strikes me as something altogether different, lost in the weeds of ambiguity and confusion, often clouded by drugs and alcohol. Throw in the impetuousness of youth, maybe the biggest factor.
I can't find any sympathy for young people who make poor decisions and go to "parties" with college peers. It is dysfunctional and pointless. Better to go to bed by 9:30 p.m. and attend church Sundays. Go to a community church and not a church that caters to students. Try to steer into the real world.
I even wonder if high school-age kids should spend so much time with each other. Does anyone really think that maturity is furthered by having kids spend so much time with each other? Isn't bullying a consequence of kids being segregated off from adults so much? They should be put in situations where they can be mentored by steady, rational and well-adjusted adults, people for whom hormones aren't obstructing their values.
Dreary backdrop in book
There are no heroes in "Missoula." It seems like rather a cesspool of disgusting behavior, behavior that could have easily been avoided.
I'm disturbed by the very fragile position males are put in. It's as if women ought to have all the power in potential amorous encounters. A man can "step over the line" in so many circumstances. It seems that the women never can. The women hold all the keys.
The Krakauer camp would argue that women must "give consent." How exactly is this supposed to happen? Does it ever happen? Is the man supposed to ask if he can do such-and-such to the woman's body, whereupon the woman answers "yes, you can do that to my body now." Isn't it profoundly unrealistic to expect this? Don't these young people in fact "follow cues" when putting their toes in the water re. sex? And, doesn't the custom put the whole matter of acquaintance rape in an incredibly "gray area?"
And since legal people get involved, don't we need a clear understanding of the facts, not just some general allegations from a woman who suddenly realizes that her whole pattern of behavior was shameful? From a woman who decides this guy maybe isn't so desirable after all? From a woman who would just like to go back to square one and erase that experience? What? College students making bad decisions about their behavior? I could never imagine (LOL).
College life can be sordid. Enough with this prolonged adolescence. I tip my hat to all the students - I'm sure there are many - who quietly and responsibly chart a responsible course after age 18. The "parties" I read about in "Missoula" are the opposite. A girl "crashes" on the sofa of a friend's house. Why not go home to her own bed? Is she too "wasted?" And this is an exhibit Krakauer seeks to use to argue for greater "accountability" in acquaintance rape cases, which translated means "let's vilify those young men."
Toward erasing the bad stuff
How shall we move forward? Discontinuing college football would be one constructive step. We don't need this "Lord of the Flies" culture on campuses for "game day" anymore. Let's make Saturday like any other day of the week, a day to advance your life in a sober and constructive fashion, not to paint your face, consume alcohol and behave like an idiot.
Am I asking too much? If the young "villains" in "Missoula" had simply chosen not to attend college, their lives could be saved. Maturity would have taken over their impulses, I would argue, and they wouldn't end up as broken, non-productive and haunted.
Am I suggesting an end to college as we've known it? Yes I am. That's my prime conclusion from "Missoula" by Jon Krakauer. You're a fine author, Jon, but please choose better subject matter. In the meantime let's recognize "Missoula" as the best promo for masturbation ever written.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwillyh73@yahoo.com

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