In the interest of preserving what little remains of my mental health, I steer clear of horrible news as the holidays close in. I do this with full knowledge that this is a luxury not shared by those who are party to such news. But since there is no remediation on my end, I avoid.
Except a day or two ago, when Danny Chen's name came up.
Chen, a 19-year-old soldier deployed to Afghanistan, was allegedly dragged out of bed, forced to do push ups while holding a mouthful of water, and pelted with rocks and racial slurs. He reportedly subsequently went into a watch tower and blew his brains out -- all this because he forgot to turn off a water heater used for showers. NPR addict that I am, I was about to turn away from this "Talk of the Nation" discussion, when a man called in from Dallas. Always curious about what my fellow Texans have to say about anything, I listened in horror as the caller described how he too had been hazed thought it was pretty funny.
Seems this particular hazee was forced to run a gauntlet where he too was pelted -- I am not making this up -- with "those spongy female body parts, you know the kind that look real." See, the guys were just having fun, "making us do stuff with them." Mercifully the host didn't seek details. I had to pull onto a service station lot because I thought my head would explode. Well, the caller continued, yes, it was embarrassing, but he didn't really see anything wrong with it.
Well the usually slow-to-react military did see a lot wrong with what happened to Private Chen. Eight members of his battalion have been charged in addition to a lieutenant and a sergeant. Chen was the second Asian-American this year known to have committed suicide as a result of hazing. (The first was Marine Corporal Harry Lew).
There I sat, looking at the car radio, wondering why this caller couldn't have been from Oklahoma or Idaho or one of those Dakotas we rarely think about. Why do Texans keep coming off as disproportionally endowed with a doofus factor? Maybe some sort of IQ test should be required of people who want to subscribe to phone service and call talk radio.