TIME Culture

I Am a Gay Boy Scout: The Policies Remain Wrong

Seattle Gay Pride
Elaine Thompson—AP Boy Scouts from the Chief Seattle Council carry U.S. flags as they prepare to march in the Gay Pride Parade in downtown Seattle on June 30, 2013.

James Dale, the plaintiff in the 2000 Supreme Court case Boy Scouts of America v. Dale, now works at a strategic advertising agency in San Francisco.

The proposal to end the ban against gay leaders leaves the door open for individual troops to do the wrong thing

I’m inspired by the remarks Thursday from Boy Scouts of America President Robert Gates calling for an end to the group’s ban on gay adult leaders. His comments go far. Do they go far enough? No.

The changes Gates proposed would need to be approved at the group’s annual meeting. Even if put into effect, they leave the door open for individual troops to do the wrong thing. That’s not the right approach.

I think it’s high time the Boy Scouts get back to the business of preparing kids for the world out there, building communities, and doing the good things they have the potential to do, instead of the bad things they’ve been doing for so long—teaching inequality as an American value. I feel a bit once bitten, twice shy by this news. I’ve been calling for the Boy Scouts to change their policies for 25 years now, when I was expelled from the organization for being gay.

Boy Scouts meant a lot to me when I was young. When I was 17 and an Eagle Scout, they told me I was everything that a Boy Scout should be. Then when I was 18, and I came out as gay, and they discovered who I was as a person, then suddenly I wasn’t good enough.

Everything I was taught in the Boy Scouts growing up seemed to contrast with how they treated me. They represented themselves as an open and accepting organization, teaching young boys that they should be proud of who they are and where they come from, and what makes them different and unique. I believed in that organization and the things they had taught me when I was younger, the positive attributes and qualities that they inspired in so many Americans, and the potential for good that they had. I challenged the policy in the New Jersey Supreme Court and won, but when the Boy Scouts appealed to the Supreme Court in 2000, I ultimately lost in a deeply dived 5-4 ruling.

It wasn’t until 2013 that the group decided to end its ban on gay children as members, but still continued its ban on gay adult leaders. This initiative was wrong in many ways: It was great that they weren’t excluding young members, but it was wrong to tell someone that you can be gay when you’re a child, but you’re immoral as an adult. That’s a horrifyingly destructive and damaging thing to say to anyone, especially a young person.

They changed the policy because they couldn’t get away with standing against young people anymore. Throwing out a 25-year-old man is very different than throwing out a 13-year-old kid. What we’ve seen over the years is that children are coming out younger and younger. Society and America are more welcoming for young gay people.

But the Boy Scouts are still behind the times. They had an opportunity to be ahead of America, to do the right thing, and not waste years expelling children, losing money, and reinventing themselves as an anti-gay organization. Now, the Supreme Court is considering marriage equality. The majority of Americans is behind fairness, and looks very likely that the high court will do the right thing.

Hopefully the Boy Scouts can do some soul searching and see who they are, and who they want to be, letting go of the bigotry that they’ve embraced far too long. The Boy Scouts have the power to stop the damage done to its reputation and the integrity of the organization, and the very real-world damage they continue to do by embracing discriminatory policies. Hopefully they’ll make these changes and more to be certain the organization doesn’t become completely irrelevant. To paraphrase Dr. Gates, the status quo in the Boy Scouts of America can no longer be sustained. To which I’d add, these policies are damaging too many young lives.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Culture

Black Leather Doesn’t Mean Bad Guy

leather motorcycle jacket
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Jay Barbieri is the author of Biker's Handbook: Becoming Part of the Motorcycle Culture and the former host of the television show, American Thunder and Two Wheel Thunder.

Don't condemn the entire American motorcycle sub culture based on one event

As an avid motorcycle enthusiast, I’d like to clear up some misconceptions about bikers following the biker “gang” shooting in Texas. While there are certain groups that operate as criminal organizations, it’s wrong to form a negative view of the entire sub culture.

First, I would like to clarify that the word “gang” is not applicable in the biker culture, but rather groups are called “motorcycle clubs,” hence the MC patch worn by members on their jacket or vest. The reason is a historical one: Motorcycle clubs were started shortly after World War II by returning vets who purchased surplus motorcycles from the military at a discounted price. These guys had similar experiences: They had been in the war, purchased motorcycles, and found it hard to adjust to civilian life, many of them suffering from post-traumatic-stress disorder. They formed motorcycle clubs as places where they could gather and feel comfortable.

But one incident in Hollister, California, in July 1947 helped give the culture its negative image. Reports of riots by bikers were sensationalized in the press, and a photo of a drunken man sitting on a motorcycle surrounded by beer bottles was featured in Life magazine. This image left an indelible mark on the general public. It’s human nature to romanticize about any group of people who live on the fringe or outside the law. It’s no different than the dime-store novels that sensationalized bank robbers and outlaws of the Wild West. The outlaw image makes for a good story.

Yes, there are motorcycle club members who live completely outside the law and march to their own drum. However, you can apply that to any group or organization. There is no doubt that bikers clad in black leather, rumbling down the road on loud motorcycles stand out in a crowd, and that makes them an easy target to be perceived as “bad” or “scary.” This perception is enforced by the media.

But the reality is that motorcycle clubs can range from police motorcycle enthusiasts to Christian biker organizations, all of whom have a similar appearance when riding—black leather being dominate. A quick piece of history about black leather and bikers: From the beginning, motorcycles have been notorious for spraying oil, so wearing black leather not only protects the rider but also hides the oil stains.

A lot of motorcycle clubs are about charity and brotherhood. They organize events such as “Toy Run,” when bikers collect toys for children in need for Christmas, or fundraisers for noble causes, such as the Wounded Warrior Program and the 911 Foundation, to name a few. Furthermore, I would guess that many motorists have experienced some kind of assistance when in trouble on the side of the road from a “big, scary” biker.

Take away the motorcycles from the event that occurred in Texas, and you have, unfortunately, just another piece of tragic news. Add in the element of motorcycles, and you get a sensationalized story that fuels the imagination.

Bikers are not going to change their appearance or way of life. It’s part of the freedom we enjoy and fight for in our country every day. People who generalize about our culture would be doing everyone a favor by looking at motorcycle-related incidents, good and bad, individually, before condemning the entire American motorcycle sub culture.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Culture

‘Lolz’ And Thousands Of Other Words Added to Scrabble Dictionary

Scrabble
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Quinzhee, an Inuit snow shelter, will get you 29 points

It’s obvs that lotsa people are going to use the new words added to the Scrabble dictionary.

“Obvs” and “lotsa” are both among the 6,500 new entries to the Collins Scrabble Word List, along with other slang terms like lolz, shizzle, and ridic, BBC reports.

The highest scoring new word is quinzhee, which will get you 29 points. It’s an Inuit snow shelter.

There’s also a bevy of new words related to technology on the list – facetime, hashtag, sexting and hacktivist are all fair game on the board.

Helen Newstead, head of language content at Collins, explained how Scrabble added so many new words. “Dictionaries have always included formal and informal English, but it used to be hard to find printed evidence of the use of slang words,” she said. “Now people use slang in social media posts, tweets, blogs, comments, text messages – you name it – so there’s a host of evidence for informal varieties of English that simply didn’t exist before.”

[BBC]

TIME Culture

We’ve Given in to Baby Worship. Ew.

Jennifer Moses is a writer and painter.

Children who are the center of their parents’ lives become brats

Recently, I noticed some unusual activity in the car one lane over from my own: The driver was taking an iPhone video of a toddler, presumably her own, as he demolished an ice cream bar while strapped into his car seat. Happily, this was happening at a red light. Unhappily, when the light changed, it continued to happen, or at least that’s what I deduced from the cacophony of honking protest.

I was on my way to the National Gallery in Washington, D.C., which I mention mainly because, while there, I spent a lot of time looking at various Madonna(s) and Child(ren)—Byzantine, Florentine, Renaissance, Medieval, enthroned, in gardens, and so forth. As a Jew, I never quite got the Baby Jesus thing, but that’s neither here nor there. What’s both here and there, however, is that Giotto and countless other believing Christians were on to something—the mystery at the heart of existence, the yearning to make both conscious and observable a palatable act of God. Hence we see baby Jesus depicted in art, the embodiment of innocence, possibility, purity, perfection, and wisdom beyond knowing.

Actual babies, however, embody nothing more than their parents’ genes and hopes and dreams. We love them to pieces. We love them so much that we have no words for how much we love them. Or at least I did, when my own three children were small. Especially when they weren’t whining, or fighting, or throwing giant loud temper tantrums that made the lighting fixtures dance. The rest of the time, I reminded myself that I loved them, that I’d chosen this, that I still had half a bottle of good Scotch in the cabinet above the oven.

And yes, when my eldest was born, I did think that I was the first woman in the world to experience the miracle and challenge of motherhood. But I didn’t actually worship him, by which I mean put him at the very center of my universe, bow down to him, enshrine him in glory, and cast him as the sine qua non of existence itself. It never occurred to me to do so; for starters, I was too sleep-deprived. And you can bet the farm that my mother, grandmothers, and great-grandmothers didn’t view their own roles as mothers as anything more—or less—than a job description, the goal being to turn childish children into responsible adults.

Whereas what seems to be happening now, at least among those endowed with both time and money, is something akin to the worship of our children. At the National Gallery, while I was touring the Holy Family galleries, young children, some still in diapers, ran around the marble floors screaming and yelling and spewing snot while the parents not only didn’t hush them up or whisk them away (or slap them silly, as I wanted to do), but instead often snapped endless photos and videos of them—which, no doubt, they posted on Facebook. Because God knows that your life isn’t really happening unless it’s captured in pixels and disseminated around the Internet. Art? Who needs it when you’ve got endless photos of Baby?

The problem with all this, aside from how silly it is, is that children who are the center of their parents’ lives become brats. Children whose parents put their kids’ entertainment, social lives, futures, and schedules ahead of their own well-being soon learn that there is only one important person in the room, and that person is the person whose short life has already been captured on endless video clips. This is not good. This is not good at all. Not for the kid. Not for the grownup. Not for the family dog.

To me, the video record of our children’s every moment dovetails with what I think of as “grade inflation”—grade inflation that not only skews the actual record of our children’s often dubious academic achievements, but also the rhetoric adults use to describe their children in general. So what happens is, on the one hand, a first-rate math teacher is fired because he dares to give C’s to C students. (This happened at my children’s private day school in Baton Rouge, where they grew up.) On the other hand, these same C-students manage to graduate from college, only to be told that, for example, they are joining “the elite of the elite in terms of standards of excellence,” (which I’m quoting as best I can from memory, having just attended the college graduations of my twins.) In the meantime, every precious moment of their precious and extraordinary lives are being recorded, emailed, Facebooked, Pinterested, Snapchatted, YouTubed, iTuned, and Twittered.

Gross.

And OK, yes, I agree: Not every young person, or new parent, indulges in such—shall we say laxity? Especially among people who inhabit the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum, where bad manners—disrespecting your elders in particular—doesn’t fly, in part because no one has either the time or the energy to indulge children’s worst inclinations, and in part because anti-social behavior on the lower rings of the socio-economic ladder tends to result in consequences more severe than a good talking-to. But a whole heck of a lot of people who should know better—people who are old enough to be adults—can’t seem to tell the difference between real life and make-believe.

Some contend that the concept of God—a Divinity beyond human reckoning—is itself make-believe, though I’m not one of them. But whether or not God is a member of your inner circle isn’t the point. The point is that a generation of children who believe that the world, and their parents, revolves around them is going to have an awful hard time growing up.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Culture

T Bone Burnett Remembers B.B. King: ‘He Conjured the Very Soul of Our Country’

"B.B. King was an ecstatic musician who mined his ecstasy from deep in the ground"

B.B. King was, is, and will remain an American hero of the highest order. He rose from deep Southern poverty to carry the true history and the highest spirit of our people around the world with a most extraordinary grace and generosity, following Louis Armstrong out of the Mississippi Delta to become one of our most significant cultural ambassadors.

The music and the history he carried in his heart and gave to us in the most openhanded way will long be remembered. In his music, he conjured the very soul of our country.

I will give you this one small story.

Thirty some odd years ago, on a night off in Houston, Texas, I wound up at a small club where B.B. was playing. It was a listening type night. It was mid week, and B.B. was in a mellow place, singing some Lonnie Johnson and some T-Bone Walker. The crowd was sitting down, hanging on his every bend. He was taking it easy, so we were all taking it easy. The set went on for a couple of semi quiet—by Texas roadhouse standards—hours before B.B. called a young Texas musician named Stevie Ray Vaughan to the stage to play a number. Stevie Ray was just getting started. People in Houston didn’t know about him yet. I had seen him with his trio at Nick Kithas’ club in Fort Worth, which was the size of a small bedroom, with two other people in attendance, one of them Nick, but he hadn’t gotten down to Houston before.

Stevie Ray seemed a little nervous to be getting on the stage with the guitarist all of us Texas guitarists viewed as one of the best all time. B.B. had been a legend down there for 30 years—an authentic link to Charlie Patton and Son House and Sun Records, for that matter. But Stevie didn’t play nervous. A couple of choruses into the first song, B.B. looked over at him to take a solo, and Stevie began to absolutely rip it up for about eight measures before he broke his B string. You would have to say it was a disappointing moment for the young virtuoso.

B.B. didn’t miss a half a beat. He threw back his head and laughed, then said over the mic, “That happens to me all the time,” then he cranked the volume on his guitar several notches and finished a most burning solo while Stevie Ray changed his string. A couple of choruses later, Stevie Ray had his guitar back together, and they tore that crowd completely apart for about 20 minutes before getting off the stage to ecstatic applause—actual ecstatic applause.

B.B. King was an ecstatic musician who mined his ecstasy from deep in the ground—from deep in the mud and the silt of a brutal region and a brutal world.

And we will ask the future generations—please see that his grave is kept clean.

TIME faith

The Gospel According to B.B. King

In this file photo taken Aug. 22, 2012, B.B. King performs at the 32nd annual B.B. King Homecoming, a concert on the grounds of an old cotton gin where he worked as a teenager in Indianola, Miss.
Rogelio V Solis—AP In this file photo taken Aug. 22, 2012, B.B. King performs at the 32nd annual B.B. King Homecoming, a concert on the grounds of an old cotton gin where he worked as a teenager in Indianola, Miss.

"I’m awed by his handiwork, the forests and oceans and sky that surrounds us"

Legendary blues artist B.B. King died last night at the age of 89.

King’s influence on American music can’t be overstated. Through his dirt-road voice and exuberant guitar work (often on his famed favorite Gibson guitar Lucille), King brought the blues to mainstream audiences. You can read The New York Times‘ obituary of King here, but for my money, King might’ve been one of the greatest American musicians ever, ranking alongside the likes of Elvis Presley, Ray Charles and Billie Holiday.

The blues themselves are, of course, quintessentially American—the yin to gospel music’s yang that, together, undergird jazz and rock. And I think there’s a little gospel in the blues themselves. Few blues songs reference God or Jesus directly, of course: They’re laments of a life or a love gone wrong, a beautiful, primal sigh. But that’s what many Psalms did back in their day, too: They were anguished, pit-of-the-soul cries set to music about heartbreak and angst and despair. The Psalms were painfully honest, just like the blues. And under each, I think, you find an underlying sliver of hope—hope in a brighter, better day. For many blues artists, including King, that hope was pinned on Jesus.

King was a Christian who, as a boy, sang in a gospel choir and was inspired by his own pastor to pick up the guitar. “I believe all musical talent comes from God as a way to express beauty and human emotion,” he once said according to Christian Today. He had a lot to say about God and faith, according to the story. And I loved what he said about God’s creation.

“I believe God created everything. I’m awed by his handiwork, the forests and oceans and sky that surrounds us. I believe God made us. But our nature isn’t always godlike.”

When I heard about King’s death this morning, my mind didn’t float back to any of King’s classic songs—”Don’t Answer the Door” or “The Thrill is Gone” or “Why I Sing the Blues.” I remembered “When Love Comes to Town,” King’s duet with Bono and U2. Bono wrote the song specifically for King, and musically, it’s a meeting at the corner of the blues and gospel music. A shout of joy when the chains of sin have fallen away. On the version I have on my iPhone, King growls out these lyrics:

I was there when they crucified my Lord
I held the scabbard when the soldier drew his sword
I threw the dice when they pierced his side
But I’ve seen love conquer the great divide

What follows isn’t the version I’m most familiar with. But it’s still pretty cool.

Paul Asay is an author, journalist, and entertainment critic who now serves as a senior associate editor for the popular Christian entertainment review site Plugged In. He has been published in a variety of other secular and Christian publications, including The Washington Post, The Gazette in Colorado Springs, YouthWorker Journal and Beliefnet.com. You can follow Paul on Twitter (@AsayPaul), visit his website or just think nice, happy thoughts about him in your spare time.

This article originally appeared on Patheos.

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TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Culture

Jack Hanna: What Zoo Critics Don’t Understand

Jack Hanna is seen posing with black mountain lion cub at 'Good Morning America' on Sept. 22, 2014 in New York City.
Alessio Botticelli—GC Images Jack Hanna is seen posing with black mountain lion cub at 'Good Morning America' on Sept. 22, 2014 in New York City.

Jack Hanna is the Director Emeritus of the Columbus Zoo and the host of Jack Hanna’s Wild Countdown and Jack Hanna’s Into the Wild.

We all have the same priorities—animal welfare, conservation, and education

Dr. Jane Goodall recently made two statements critical of zoos and aquariums. She said two elephants in a zoo in Seattle should be released to a sanctuary and that SeaWorld should be shut down. After the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle invited her to learn more about the zoo’s decisions regarding elephants, she took them up on their invitation. I admire Dr. Goodall for her willingness to learn more and re-evaluate her initial comments. I hope Dr. Goodall will also engage in a conversation with SeaWorld about her concerns.

I encourage other zoo critics to do the same thing—engage in a meaningful dialogue so that together we can do the best thing for animals. I’m growing weary of the us-versus-them mentality. Although zoo critics and zoo champions have some differing philosophies, we all have the same priorities—animal welfare, conservation, and education. I am confident we can co-exist and be more productive if we work side-by-side.

Visiting zoos and aquariums is the largest recreational activity in the United States. More than 175 million people visit zoos and aquariums accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) each year. Zoos and aquariums play a critical role in the survival of endangered species and allow people from all walks of life to experience and learn about the animal world. Animals in zoos are ambassadors to their cousins in the wild—they educate people about the importance of wildlife. After a visit to the zoo—listening, seeing, smelling—people often leave with a newfound understanding and compassion for wildlife.

AZA accreditation requires excellence in animal care and welfare, conservation, education and scientific studies. There are more than 200 accredited institutions, and in 2013, they donated nearly $160 million to support about 2,450 conservation projects in more than 120 countries. Species such as the black-footed ferret, California condor, Mexican wolf, scimitar-horned oryx, and Przewalski’s horses have overcome near-extinction in part because of zoos’ commitment to conservation.

Critics say the only place animals belong is in the wild, but those boundaries are shrinking each day. Having traveled the world, the only places I consider truly “wild” are Antarctica, parts of the Amazon and some places in Africa. Even in Africa, the “wild” places tend to be national parks with guarded boundaries. Animals face many challenges, including habitat loss, poaching, severe weather, and war. The “wild” is not necessarily the idyllic place people imagine. Poaching has decimated the northern white rhino population—the last known male has his own personal 24-hour security to ensure he isn’t poached for his horn.

I’ve loved animals since I was a young boy and have dedicated my life to improving zoos and educating people about wildlife. In my more-than 40-year career, I’ve taken an active role in modernizing zoological parks to provide top-notch habitats, veterinary care, and enrichment, and meaningful educational opportunities for guests. During my tenure at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium and the Wilds, I’ve had the pleasure of working with dozens of zoos, including SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment.

I can tell you firsthand that the animals in SeaWorld’s parks receive world-class care. Their zoological team shares my commitment to protecting and preserving species; educating young people about the risks that animals face in the natural world; and inspiring the next generation of conservationists, marine biologists, scientists, and animal enthusiasts. The animal care teams at SeaWorld understand the value of studying animals in zoological settings in order to save future generations.

Furthermore, this spring I witnessed SeaWorld’s rescue teams in full swing. More than 25,000 animals owe their lives to SeaWorld animal rescue teams. Just this year, they have saved more than 500 sea lions on the West Coast. The SeaWorld team has worked around the clock to rehabilitate these animals, all with the goal of returning them to the wild. The team at SeaWorld San Diego even built two new pools to accommodate them, and closed its Sea Lion and Otter Show so that its staff could dedicate more time to nursing the pups back to health.

Every aquarium and zoo I work with believes its mission includes raising awareness about the challenges faced by animals around the world. We know animals have the power to touch our hearts, and when this happens, it opens the door to education that can inspire people to participate in protecting animals and conserving their environments. As worldwide animal populations continue to decline and children have less face-to-face experiences with animals, it’s my hope that all animal advocates—zoos, researchers, scientists, activists, philanthropists, the media, and animal lovers everywhere—will join forces to make a difference.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Culture

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: Don’t Ban Fraternities. Address the Bigger Problems.

TIME columnist Abdul-Jabbar is a six-time NBA champion and league Most Valuable Player. He is also a celebrated author, filmmaker and education ambassador.

Is their behavior a sobering reflection of America’s unconscious values?

It’s been a bad year for Fraternity Row. Hazing violence, rape accusations, and racist rants have a lot of people wondering whether fraternities still serve a useful purpose or instead create an atmosphere of fear, elitism, and danger that is the antithesis of what higher education should be about. Several schools — including Rutgers University, Johns Hopkins University, and Emory University — have announced limitations of fraternity parties, while some frats have been temporarily closed. Just this week, New York City’s Baruch College was hit with a $25 million lawsuit over a hazing death. Commentator Bill Maher recently called for banning fraternities, comparing their hazing techniques to that of ISIS. Even frat icon and Old School star Will Ferrell, a former fraternity brother, said in March that colleges should consider “getting rid of the system altogether.”

Once admired as the ultimate college experience of fellowship, lifelong business connections, and good-natured fun, to many people today, fraternities are the social equivalent of the greasy guy on the subway taking photos with a hidden shoe phone.

The debate over banning fraternities can best be answered by watching the opening scene in the pilot episode of HBO’s series, The Wire. Detective Jimmy McNulty is sitting on a stoop with a pal of a man known as Snot Boogie who’s been shot dead in the street. As the cops work the nearby crime scene, the dead man’s pal explains that every Friday they would play craps in the alley, and every Friday, when the pot got big, Snot Boogie would grab the cash and run. They’d run after him, catch him, and beat him. McNulty asks the obvious question: “If every time Snot Boogie would grab the money and run away, why’d you even let him in the game?” To which the friend replies, “Got to. It’s America, man.”

Yeah, it’s America, man. The land of freedom of speech, the freedom to gather, the freedom to make a fool of yourself. Where we punish individuals for crimes, not whole groups.

Fraternities offer real, practical benefits: Many engage in charitable community service, lifelong friendships are forged, and they can be safe havens from academic stress. They also create networks that can improve business and political careers. Since 1877, 69% of U.S. presidents have been in fraternities. Since 1910, 85% of U.S. Supreme Court justices have been in fraternities. In addition, 76% of U.S. senators, 85% of Fortune 500 executives, and 71% of men in Who’s Who in America have also been in fraternities.

The main issue isn’t whether or not fraternities should be banned, but what the toilet-circling reputation of fraternities says about our culture in general. Is their behavior a sobering reflection of America’s unconscious values, or an abhorrent aberration birthed from self-entitlement and pampering?

Let’s start with hazing, the usually infantile, sometimes sadistic, often humiliating initiation ritual pledges are put through before they are deemed worthy of joining, and sometimes after. The philosophy behind hazing is the same used by every organization from the military to certain businesses to religious cults: Strip the initiate of individual identity until they place their loyalty to the group over themselves. Fraternities should immediately eliminate the practice. A Huffington Post/YouGov poll found that a hefty majority of Americans want to see fraternities caught hazing removed from campus.

Another behavior of some fraternities is blatant racism, as seen in the video of Oklahoma University fraternity Sigma Alpha Epsilon boys singing, “There will never be a n***** in SAE. You can hang him from a tree, but he can never sign with me.” That chapter has since been closed. It shouldn’t have been. The act was outrageous but still within the parameters of free speech. Instead, the fraternity should have made social amends through outreach programs within the black community. Hopefully, this incident will result in a decline of new students wanting to join fraternities where such behavior is tolerated.

The much more important behaviors involve sex and alcohol. These abuses are more widespread, affect many more people inside and outside the fraternities, and are indeed reflective of American attitudes. They are especially significant because booze and sexism are more aligned with the male manifesto of machismo that reverberates throughout society.

Let’s admit it, we are a booze-obsessed nation. Many Americans, especially the youth, are convinced us that we can’t have a good time without alcohol, often a lot of alcohol. The red plastic cup is as much the symbol of coming of age as getting a driver’s license. Non-drinkers are often relentlessly pressured to drink. Being drunk is glamorized on TV and in movies as proof of having had a good time. “Let’s get wasted!” is viewed as a rallying cry for fun rather than as a cry for help.

For some, this Romanticizing the Stoli is symbolized by frat parties, where booze and bad behavior flows like the river of urine on the back lawn. In fact, it’s these legendary parties that attract a lot of boys to fraternities because it’s clearly a place where they can live out their adolescent fantasies of bacchanalian excess.

Before we dismiss this as just college kids enjoying life while their young, let’s think of the consequences: About 88,000 people each year die of alcohol-related causes, making it the third leading preventable cause of death in the U.S.; the cost of misuse of alcohol problems is about $223.5 billion a year; nearly half of college students who drink also binge drink; about 1,825 college students between 18 and 24 die from unintentional alcohol-related injuries each year; 97,000 students in the same age range are victims of alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape.

That last statistic leads us to the even worse problem of sexual exploitation and abuse of women. Pennsylvania State had a recent scandal involving a fraternity’s Facebook page on which they posted nude photos of unconscious women. Brown University suspended two fraternities recently for “facilitated” sexual misconduct. According to John D. Foubert, a professor of higher education and student affairs at Oklahoma University who studies sexual assault, research has shown “that fraternity men are three times more likely to commit sexual assault than other college men.”

While it’s easy to blame fraternities and be done with it, the real underlying problem we need to face is this: Where do our young men first get the idea that sexual exploitation and boozy behavior are OK? That alcohol will make them “the world’s most interesting man”? That girls are attracted to boys who treat them like they’re in porn magazines?

Let’s not ban fraternities. Let’s regulate them much more strictly regarding alcohol use and sexual harassment. Let’s punish individuals rather than organizations. Then, let’s take a closer look at how much our ads, TV shows, movies, and music perpetuate the kind of dim thinking that encourages this abuse.

It’s America, man, and we’re better than this.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Culture

How Rappers Are Destigmatizing Mental Illness

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Rap has taken major strides simply by talking about it

There’s a lyric in Eminem’s “Rock Bottom”, off The Slim Shady LP, that sticks out: “Live half a life and throw the rest away.” You can read it as a description of depression and its impact, how a crushing vortex of internal negativity can prevent someone from living their best life. Depression manifests in many different ways, including feelings of worthlessness, loss of interest in normal activities, and even recurring suicidal thoughts. Though it often goes undiagnosed, it’s a mental health condition that plagues many, and it’s commonplace for depression to emerge as a major theme for musicians. One place it’s been creeping up more than usual is rap.

Rap has a complicated relationship with depression. For starters, it was born as an appendage of hip-hop and its young black men surging with machismo. Black masculinity has always been at odds with clinical depression, mostly because copping to it can be considered an admission of fragility. Emotional disorders carry a certain stigma that hangs over black communities like a fog, causing many to suffer in silence. This stigma has been covered by PBS, NPR, and Slate’s The Root, but lately it’s grown into more of a full-blown perception. One Yahoo Answers user posed the question “Can black people get depression?” a few years back. In an interview with U.S. News, author and therapist Terrie Williams, who herself has dealt with depression, addressed the stigma candidly: “Depression is a sign of weakness in the black community.”

On top of a sort of communal aversion to acknowledging depression, certain underlying conflicts challenge rappers specifically. Rap bravado doesn’t exactly lend itself to vulnerability or dejection; rappers are more often seen as fixtures of ruggedness or hedonism. To be an openly depressed rapper is to disassociate oneself with the image of an archetypical hip-hop star.

That isn’t to say that rap doesn’t allow its characters to be complex or that rappers have never expressed depression. But its primary ethos has always been pride, and as a result, rap hasn’t been subject to a deep psychological examination on a larger scale. A song like The Notorious B.I.G.’s “Suicidal Thoughts”, built around a concept heavily rooted in depression, grazes many of the symptoms, but Biggie writes from a position of perceived control, shutting himself off from any real internalized dialogue about why he’s feeling so empty. There’s no self-diagnosis or acknowledgment of the root illness itself.

Rap has struggled to communicate major depression, defined by the Mayo Clinic as causing a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest, through a personal lens. In 2015 alone, however, Kendrick Lamar, Earl Sweatshirt, Heems, and Future have already navigated that gap. Each has taken steps to personalize and verbalize his ongoing battles with depression.

On his debut solo album, Eat Pray Thug, Punjabi-Indian rapper Heems follows a similar cycle: a rough breakup leads to depression and prompts him to pursue drug use as an outlet. But unlike Future, he writes his lead-ins with far more cognizance: “I’ve been a mess since I met you/ I regret you/ You could say I love what’s regretful” and “Get low/ Now I’m f—ing sad again/ Bruh, need another drink or I be going mad again/ Mad about you when I’m on my Helen Hunt/ But I’m in the corner and I’m smoking on this blunt.” He’s direct about his lows and how they induce his intoxication. Both Heems and Future turn to drugs to avoid facing their depression head-on, but despite coping in similar ways, they acknowledge their problem through different channels. Future hides his concessions like Easter eggs for diligent listeners. Heems seems open but stays guarded.

Those methods explore facets of depression — Future dances around the fringes of woe and Heems engages on the surface — but rap can connect with the condition on an even more critical level. The more comprehensive appraisals of depression come from two MCs who have both a full understanding of their emotional whims and expert command of the English language. Kendrick Lamar and Earl Sweatshirt possess the lyrical dexterity to transmit complex emotional responses into words. On top of that, they both use their recent music to communicate exactly how fame can play a role in pushing a person toward depression.

In an interview with MTV about his recent album To Pimp a Butterfly, Kendrick said bluntly, “My release therapy is writing the music.” He was speaking specifically about “u”, a gut-wrenching, self-evaluative song that is brutally honest about his depression and its causes. He critiques himself like he’s someone else: “I know your secrets/ Mood swings is frequent/ I know depression is restin’ on your heart for two reasons.” He speaks directly from that vortex of internal negativity: “You the reason why Momma and them leavin’/ No, you ain’t s—, you say you love them, I know you don’t mean it/ I know you’re irresponsible, selfish, in denial, can’t help it/ Your trials and tribulations a burden, everyone felt it.” If depression could audibly manifest itself, this is what it would sound like: angry, wretched, poking and prodding, telling you you’re worthless in your own voice.

Then there’s Earl. If the title of his album I Don’t Like S—, I Don’t Go Outside wasn’t a dead giveaway, Earl Sweatshirt’s prologue made it clear. On “Grief”, the album’s first single, he described his depression as “feeling like I’m stranded in a mob, scrambling for Xanax out the canister to pop.” He thinks like a psychoanalyst, studying exactly why he does things. His pleas feel like cries for help: “Step into the shadows, we could talk addiction/ When it’s harmful where you going and the part of you that know it don’t give a f—.” He writes about depression like it’s something that swallows you up. Earl has a special way with words, and his perspective comes across like he’s permanently standing under a dark cloud. It’s even how he paints in the details. On “Off Top” he raps, “I’m only happy when there’s static in the air/ ‘Cause the fair weather fake to me.” He relays his inner battle in what feels like real time. Even if you can’t relate, you sympathize.

These are the voices that can help listeners — including, especially, listeners of color — connect with depression as a real, tangible thing that may affect them and their loved ones. In the last few months alone, rap has taken major strides toward helping to destigmatize depression, both within the genre and within the black community, simply by talking about it. By opening up about mental health and discussing it on a more personalized level, rappers can help breach the dialogue about depression in their own communities. Music is a powerful medium that can help people acknowledge realities they otherwise might not have. It’s not too late for rappers to help alter the perception of mental illness. As Earl puts it, “I just want my time and my mind intact/ When they’re both gone, you can’t buy ‘em back.”

This article originally appeared on Consequence of Sound.

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Christie’s Just Sold Over $1 Billion Worth of Artwork in Three Days

Jussi Pylkkanen, president of Christie's, takes bids at an auction for the art work, "Les femmes d'Alger (Version O)" painted by Pablo Picasso, at Christie's on May 11, 2015 in New York City
Andrew Burton—Getty Images Jussi Pylkkanen, president of Christie's, takes bids at an auction for the art work, "Les femmes d'Alger (Version O)" painted by Pablo Picasso, at Christie's on May 11, 2015 in New York City

And they still haven't finished their sales for the week

With paintings like Mark Rothko’s “No.10″ going for $82 million or Andy Warhol’s “Colored Mona Lisa” topping $56 million, it is no wonder Christie’s made history Wednesday by becoming the first auction house to cross the $1 billion mark in total art sales in one week.

According to the auction house, 72 postwar and contemporary artworks sold for just under $660 million in a New York evening auction. This comes on the heels of Christie’s “Looking Forward to the Past” event that made over $705 million on Monday. Among the latter’s sales were Picasso’s “Les Femmes d’Alger, Version O” becoming the most valuable single piece of artwork sold at an auction when it fetched over $179 million.

Christie’s is set to add to the record on Thursday with a day and night sale. They will have another day sale on Friday.

And it isn’t just Christie’s raking in the dough. Competitor Sotheby’s notched up $380 million on a Tuesday evening sale and over $90 million on a Wednesday day auction.

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