The Battalion. (College Station, Tex.) 1893-current, October 17, 1997, Image 7

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    ober 171
i not fee!
;oingtofiday • October 17, 1997
O The Battalion
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Photography by Rony Angkriwan & Brandon Bollom
n countit
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opinion editor
It is,
haps, the
physical ex
hibition of
regie spirit,
in advanced 61118
sd run j^prifice
cation iii|i urs - to
notices ;h u ild it,
s andrfB mni
j n crowd into
dar. If;,tBllege Sta-
luestions ^00 to see it and t-sips cower in
he news^ ear °f it.
1313. But there is a dark side be
hind the burning flames, one
|iat might shock many Aggies
o are not in the know.
J! Texas A&M prides itself on be
ing a shining star where traditions
are concerned. Tradition is said to
be what sets this university apart
from all others, what makes this
AC) flluniversityspecial.
Participating in traditions can
be a bonding experience for stu
dents, introducing them to new
pends and strengthening
Ichool pride. But what happens
when carrying on a tradition
gets out of hand, when the ac-
tions of a few overzealous indi
viduals overshadow the true
of the tradition?
The Aggie Bonfire tradition
parted in 1909, and was official-
■i^^ly^taken over by A&M in 1935.
The flaming stack is said to
symbolize the “burning desire”
to beat the University of Texas at
p. m . Meaning
their annual match-up.
The wearing of hard hats, or
“pots” has been a Bonfire tradi
tion for decades, as well. Student
workers’ positions and responsi
bilities are noted by the color of
their pots.
In recent years, however, an
other less spirited practice has
jaded the “pot”-wearing tradi
tion. While walking around cut
site or stack site today, though,
one might wonder what burning
desires are actually being sym
bolized by the pyre.
Bonfire pots are commonly
decorated to indicate workers’
groups, dorms or units.
Today, however, the pots seem
less like advertisements for stu
dents’ housing locales, and more
like ads for some 9-7-6 number.
The comments pass the
boundaries of good taste by miles,
putting new meaning to the term
blatantly sexually offensive.
Sadly, this disgusting new tra
dition seems to have permeated
the cut and stack practice.
A recent voyage to the polo
fields yielded quite a crop of vul
gar examples of this less than
pristine practice.
For instance, one male work
er’s helmet proclaimed that he
would “work for fellatio.”
Not a very shining invitation
to the average female student.
Another male stacker indicat
ed that he would work for an
even more colorful part of the
female anatomy, displaying his
fervent sexual appetite.
Even Crew Chiefs seem to en
dorse this new trend, as one
sported a hat saying that “girls
with big tits do it better.”
The average person might not
understand what exactly there is
about cutting and stacking logs
that requires that women have
big breasts, but I’m sure a Crew
Chief would know.
For years, women have fought
to be respected for their contri
bution to building Bonfire, con
sistently arguing that female
“pots” are equal to their male
Apparently, women have tak
en this supposed equality to the
same pathetic extreme, choos
ing to embrace the potty
mouthed pot practice.
One of the female Bonfire vol
unteers, for example, chose to
have her helmet proclaim that
she “don’t want no short” man.
Her concern with shortness,
however, was focused on penis
size, not height.
Another woman decided to
get straight to the point, her
helmet simply reading “Sex,
sex, sex.”
The only word appropriate to
describe these tasteless toppers is
disgusting. Aggie Bonfire, a tradi
tion which already faces enough
derision for its environmental
repercussions, simply becomes an
Visitors to Bonfire number
annually from 30,000 to 70,000
people. These include students,
parents, former students, ad
ministrators and guests from
other universities.
Bonfire rests on A&M proper
ty, with big trucks beside with
the words “Aggie Bonfire”
slathered across them.
That is what makes this pot
decorating practice so disturb
ing. It is almost as if the Univer
sity just shrugs it off as a given,
regardless of the fact that these
crude individuals are supposed
to be representing University
pride at its finest hour.
The real message these lewd
pots are sending is that Bonfire
and sexual promiscuity go hand
in hand, that sexual harassment
is okay.
In the end, one must remember
that traditions are only beneficial
as long as they are for the good of
the school and its students.
When supporting a tradition,
people must not just play follow
the leader; they should apply a
sense of morality and use their
Succumbing to a tasteless
group mentality does not make
a good person or a good Aggie,
it only makes for a spineless
And while people’s right to ex
press themselves should be pre
served, one would hope that by
the time a person reaches col
lege age, he or she would be able
to distinguish between tasteful
and tasteless.
Mandy Cater is a senior
psychology major.
The Battalion
Editorials Board
Established in 1893
Editorials appearing in The Battalion reflect the
views of the editorials board members. They do not
necessarily reflect the opinions of other Battalion
staff members, the Texas A&M student body, re
gents, administration, faculty or staff. Columns,
guest columns, cartoons and letters express the
opinions of the authors.
Contact the opinion editor for information on sub
mitting guest columns.
Helen Clancy
Editor in Chief
Brad Graeber
Managing Editor
James Francis
Opinion Editor
Mandy Cater
Assistant Opinion Editor
Shattering the Tradthon
Bonfire deserves honorable
participation, not vulgar displays.
Every year it seems that Bon
fire is associated with a contro
versy — racism, sexism or envi
ronmental destruction.
However, the obscenities seen
on the pots of Bonfire partici
pants this year are among the
worst violations of decency on
campus. And according to Head
Stack John Gallemore, it hasn’t al
ways been this way.
By sponsoring Bonfire, the
University is sanctioning the sex
ist and vulgar messages implied
by the words so proudly dis
played on these helmets.
This blatant behavior creates
an atmosphere of exclusion, tar
nishing a tradition that Aggies
have embraced for many years.
This cheap disrespect toward
sexuality and gender is unaccept
able at an institution of higher ed
The Bonfire site is open to the
public—visitors of A&M who wit
ness such backwardness can not
be impressed by what they see. We
cannot be a “World Class Univer
sity” when participants in an offi
cial University activity display
statements such as “will work for
cunt” as a part of their uniform.
Some University groups dis
miss the lewd comments associ
ated with Bonfire by saying “boys
will be boys.” However, the Fish
Drill Team also adopted this irre
sponsible attitude in regards to
hazing — and has since tainted
A&M’s image due to the resulting
In order for the student body
to respect the Bonfire tradition,
participants must respect it
The Fish Drill Team was dis
banded because of hazing — we
could lose Bonfire due to imma
ture, senseless vulgarity.
The inappropriate atmos
phere encouraged at Bonfire
would not be accepted at any
other forum.
For instance, a large outcry
would occur if our football team
printed “will work for fellatio” on
their helmets.
Generally, this campus prides
itself in its conservative values,
yet overlooks the negative be
havior associated with Bonfire.
Those who choose to take the
moral high ground on issues
such as homosexuality and abor
tion are conspicuously absent
from opposing this activity.
If the University will not ad
dress this issue until a lawsuit oc
curs, it is up to students to take
proactive measures to amelio
rate this situation.
Bonfire was founded almost
90 years ago, and aspects of it
have evolved into destructive ac
tivities. Students of all back
grounds are present at A&M now,
and traditions must accommo
date the unique perspectives
they represent.
Although the University ad
ministration proclaims itself as
the champion of diversity, its ac
tions reflect different motives. It
is aware of the appalling phras
es on the Bonfire pots — that
they perpetuate negative stereo
types — yet fails to take action.
The University claims to re
cruit the best students, only to
encourage them to participate in
morally degrading functions.
Vulgarity at Bonfire is an un
acceptable part of A&M in 1997
which must be changed — we
can no longer look the other way.
If administrators cannot take ac
tion, students can. And if they re
spect A&M traditions and want
to . see them preserved, they
should take action.
Students can choose to cele
brate Bonfire in the manner in
which it was meant to be cele
brated: as a symbol of pride and
Traditions are sacred at A&M,
and students need to address the
insensitive activities perpetuat
ed by some Bonfire participants.
A tradition that offends students
is not one worth keeping.
ise fee! Californians decide
to vote for change
I On the opinion page of the Oct.
15 Battalion, it said, ‘Welcome to
..pektown, U.S.A.’ and I felt like I
fnU.CCqvas there when I read Donny Fer-
s^s^^guson’ column on medicinal mari-
HMM 0^)uana. This column seemed more
Jke an attack on the majority of
_ the voters’ intelligence for not sid-
S ing with the columnist’s opinion
EARS on prohibition of grass.
i The Californian voters may
have taken into consideration fac
tors that show grass to be non-ad-
I dictive and less dangerous than
other legal drugs like alcohol and
OcAllilobacco. Maybe they decided to
i;—C stop putting the seemingly harm-
jRW - r less drug into the control of mod-
JRVV 2^em-dayAl Capones.
/ISC 22l Court precedents allow us to
'Q\M 1 as we P^ ease with our own bod-
^ KVV1 ies as long as unborn children are
JRW * not murdered and no pot is
jRVV jfeioked. These laws should not be
confused with right and wrong.
People in California who voted for
215 were not suckered into voting
’er con p r0 p OS iti on i n t 0 law, Donny
m b ingeniously discovered.
C The voters actually thought for
WEEKS themselves and voted for what they
$20 pc ' believed in rather than voting how
a (. they were told to think. The Cali
fornian voters voted for liberty.
—They refused to take their pipes to
Amsterdam from behind a book
shelf and hid from fascists who
would have everyone think from
the same perspective. Sending pot
smokers to overcrowded prisons for
breaking silly laws is not right and
California has taken a step in the
right direction to put an end to this.
These not so well thought argu
ments have been accepted for a
long time thanks to the ‘war on
drugs’ and all the propaganda that
has gone along with and inspired
this witch hunt. California has tak
en a step to distinguish decent citi
zens from a real and dangerous
criminal underworld. Once the
distinction has been made people
will begin to see the problem is not
the drug, but in the system that
forces it in the control of criminals.
Randal Scamardo
Class of’98
Bonfire feature
misses the mark
In response to Michelle Voss’Oct. 15
Lifes tyles fea tu re:
Voss was in error stating that
there are no women Crew Chiefs.
Although there is not one this year,
there has been a woman Off-Cam
pus Aggie Crew Chief for the past
three previous years.
These women earned their
pots through hard work and ded
ication to Bonfire.
This is a trend that will proba
bly continue as more women be
come involved.
Do not forget that Lechner and
the Fowler-Keathly-Hughes Com
plex are coed residence halls with ac
tive female participation. The
women who continue to go out to
cut and stack have true grit. They are
both recognized and appreciated.
Michael Spiders
Class of’98
Tradition brings students back to nature
N ature calls. And
for the Bonfire
crowd, it
sounds something
like, “%<§>#$!”.
Every Aggie has their
stereotypes, but for the
Bonfire crowd, they
manage to live up to
common perception.
The University di
vides into camps
about how to view
Bonfire. Strict, uptight conservatives gasp
in horror as half-nude freaks streak by, cov
ered in mud and proudly displaying lewd
comments on their clothing.
Rugged outdoorsy types can appreciate
Bonfire for the simple communion of na
ture and man.
Freudians see Bonfire as a mere phallic
symbol, a monument to testosterone.
Others just stare in bewilderment with
crinkled brows and pursed lips thinking, “O,
that was tacky.”
No matter how one perceives Bonfire, all
Aggies cannot forget that our sacred Bonfire
tradition would not exist if those handful of
dedicated Ags quit sacrificing their time
and energy to Bonfire.
To explain this split in the student popu
lation, two classifications can best describe
the general sentiments towards Bonfire.
Either students see Bonfire from a
Thoreau perspective, let’s go back to nature,
or students take a Puritanical view of the
crude behavior associated with the event.
Initially, we have the Thoreau approach:
Bonfire brings students out to nature,
which is inherently positive. For our non-
English majors, here’s a little background
on Thoreau.
Thoreau wrote Walden 150 years ago as
an account of why he left the city for the
woods. Thoreau thought that nature could
provide an escape from the stifling worldli
ness and materialism of his contemporaries.
Viewing his fellow men as conformists to
a life of “melancholy responsibility,” Thore
au basically thought Americans were bor
ing, self-righteous and greedy.
So, Thoreau said, “Turn it out doors, Into
the moors.” In other words, Americans
need to stop and compare their stale, con
ventional codes of morality with the dy
namic laws of the universe.
For Bonfire participants, wandering out
to the woods for cut is an escape from the
banality of life. A little bit of wood-chop
ping can purify.
Try some honest, manual labor for a day.
Use your hands instead of trying to extend
yourself through the modern holy ma
chines of commerce.
Our precious hunks of wires and metal
do nothing to create self-reliance or self-
worth. Thoreau wrote, “We need the tonic
of wildness, we need to witness our own
limits transgressed ...”
Returning to nature for a day can put life
into perspective. By testing yourself against
the rugged wilderness, you become more
aware of simplicity.
Bonfire equals freedom for many. Mi
grating to the woods for a day provides a
mental release from the flat and dreary pro
gram of life. The fresh air is free from the
toxic confinement of the “student” label,
and the vibrant hues of the woods drown
out the plague of four white walls.
In direct contrast, Puritans saw the
woods as Satan’s playground. In the eyes of
the Puritans, only evildoers would gather in
the woods to conjure spirits of Lucifer, con
duct pagan rituals and dance naked
through the trees [well, certain groups at
Bonfire might do this last one.]
Puritans saw the woods as a symbol of
moral depravity.
It is interesting to draw a correlation be
tween this Puritanical view of the woods
and how some students perceive Bonfire
Today, the Bonfire crowd is seen as a
group of lunatics and social degenerates.
With their grungy, smelly clothes, socially
unacceptable behavior and bizarre jargon,
students often view Bonfire participants as
amoral barbarians.
Yet, an even more interesting observa
tion is the annual ritual of Bonfire. Regard
less of how one perceives Bonfire, all stu
dents arrive on the eve of the t.u. game to
watch this over-sized fire burn.
Oddly enough, everyone takes credit for
the stack of logs, whether they helped build
it or not.
Bonfire becomes a point of unity. All Ag
gies watch the blazing fire and feel a
swelling of pride.
No matter if they Puritanically disdain
the crude behavior, or actually lead the
droves of muddy eccentrics, all stop, look at
each other and say, “Wow, that’s a big fire.”
In the end. Bonfire is a simple pagan rit
ual. A sacrifice to the gods of football. O, ye,
great gods, accept this monument to 54
days of swarthiness.
As a gift from the students and alumni,
we hope the gods grant us power so that
our people might defeat the evil, wretched
enemy, t.u.
So, as thousands of Aggies witness this
burning castle in the air, they realize that
maybe the stinky bonfire freaks are not so
bad after all.
Michelle Voss is a sophomore
English major.