Friday, February 23, 2007

The Jarhead Footlocker Principle

My friend and colleague, Juan, is a US Marine. He told me when he was in boot camp, all the men in his unit (platoon?) were housed in one barracks. At the end of the day, the shower room could handle half of them at a time, so one half remained in the barracks while the other half cleaned up.

At the foot of each bed in the barracks sat a Marine's footlocker, housing all the possessions he was allowed to have at the base. The DI said that a Marine must keep his footlocker locked. The DI said that the very first day.

Of course, someone forgot as he went with his group to the shower. When he got back, his footlocker was upended and all of its contents scattered throughout the barracks, courtesy of the DI. I guess it happened just that once.

The point of the rule and the stringent enforcement of the rule was to keep temptation out of the way of the other men in the unit. It's fine to talk about honor and self-enforcing codes and the like. But the DI didn't look at it that way. His view was that each of the men had a responsibility not to put a stumbling block in the way of his comrades.

I have thought about that principle a good bit as I have read what is going on in Durham with the Duke lacrosse team criminal proceedings. Certainly, we can all lament the fraudulent action of the prosecutor, the abandonment of the young men by their professors, and the cynicism of the test-the-wind-first administration, but what about the Jarhead footlocker principle? What responsibility does the Duke lacrosse team bear for making possible the theft of their reputations by the stripper? What responsibility does the Duke community bear for developing and sustaining a culture where off-campus parties like the one involved in this case have been tolerated since I was at Duke? Those who rejoice in their righteous indignation over the miscarriage of justice for the young men should temper themselves a bit and consider who is responsible for setting the stage for the unfortunate, perhaps inevitable drama that ensued.


Macon said...

That's cool! I didn't know that about Juan.

Paul Stokes said...
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Kellsey said...

This reminds me of how Macon and I used to talk with female college students about deciding what to wear. We suggested that instead of asking "does this look good on me?", perhaps they should ask "does wearing this love my male friends well?" We stressed that it is indeed possible to dress in ways that are attractive without setting up the guys around us to be overly distracted by our bodies. We need to ask the men not to see women as only sexy pieces of eye-candy, AND we need to ask the women to take responsibility for the images they project by choosing thoughtfully what they wear.

Paul Stokes said...

Exactly, Kellsey. Thanks.