Sunday, September 18, 2005

Burn, Baby, Burn

About this time of year, in this part of the country, we start to hear rumblings about the loss of Texas A&M’s annual bonfire. A&M's "Aggies" once burned a massive pile of wood to mark the start of football season. A few years ago, for those who don’t remember, a number of students died tragically as they built the annual bonfire. It made the font-page of the nation’s papers, resulting in a university-ban on further bonfires.

I have historical reasons why I think it is a bad idea for a group of mostly white Texans to gather in the middle of the night and burn something. On some evenings I fear that I will awake to find that students have built a cross-shaped “bonfire” in my front yard.

People in this area, however, won’t let the A&M bonfire go, even with evidence that this activity is hazardous to their existence. “Bonfire,” they shout, “was a tradition. You know, like hazing or keeping women out of the military.”

Their zeal makes me wonder what traditions would be worth my life (or at least the life of a close friend). Maybe I am devoid of this type of passion, but I just couldn’t think of anything.

There are people I would surely risk my life for: Shaun, my family, friends, Lynda Carter.

There are ideals I would like to think that I would risk my life for: social justice, freedom of speech, all-natural fibers.

But traditions? I am stumped.

Even though I disagree with it, I am in awe of the bonfire devotees’ commitment to their crusade. Don’t misunderstand me: their passion does not make Bonfire seem like a good idea to me. Still, they print t-shirts, hold rogue bonfires off-campus, and write dozens of letters to the local papers. If I devoted half this much effort to my publication record, I would have had tenure years ago. If the left put this much effort into anything, we would have had a national healthcare program under Harry Truman.

So my strategy is to try to create new A&M traditions to harness this energy. How hard could it be to convince 44,000 students that demonstrating for gay marriage has always been an Aggie custom?

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