Division. It’s a buzzword in our society today. It manifests itself in the movements of both the left side and the right side of the political spectrum. Division by race, by gender, by sexuality, by political views, by class — everything under the sun is highlighted as splitting the country into pieces, shattering the once strong fortress known as America and turning it into one that is divided against itself.
Tensions seem to mount with each passing week and people are left wondering when they are going to bubble over into a full-fledged conflict. Although it makes for good journalism, it is truly sickening and heart-wrenching to see. The last thing anybody wants to see is a race war or class warfare in the United States,or anywhere for that matter. The hope of everyone is to find unity as a society, to find common ground and build upon it together. To reach shared goals, and to break through the barriers of race, gender, etc. But how? I have a suggestion…
The Corps of Cadets at VMI hails from almost every state in the U.S., the cadets come from many different financial backgrounds, is co-ed, and encompasses many different races and ethnicities. There are homosexual cadets, cadets who are transgender and cadets who are straight.
According to the trends of today and what you hear in the mainstream media, there should be clashes between the students here because of the reasons aforementioned. But instead, there is an incredibly tight brotherhood I’ve spoken about in my previous articles.
So why is this tiny military school tucked away in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley so different? The answer, while simple, is difficult to fully comprehend. Above all things, the students here at VMI identify and take pride in one label more than any others: the honor of calling themselves a VMI Cadet. All belong to other groups like NCAA teams or are members of various clubs and activities, but the bond is forged through shared experiences in the Ratline where all of the differences and previous life experiences and statuses are stripped away and the only color is the gray in our uniforms. You are not a black Rat or a white Rat. You are not a gay Rat or a straight Rat. You are not a rich Rat or a poor Rat. You are simply a Rat. This carries through all the way to graduation and beyond.
“Okay Eli, we get it, your school is just the coolest thing ever, who cares?” I hear you yell. Easy there friend, this has a point. You see, at the end of the day, it didn’t matter what we looked like or believed in, we love one another because we share one common trait with everyone, as well as the fact that we have to work with each other in order to succeed. This can be applied to the world outside of VMI as well.
Instead of saying “I’m white, rich and straight, I must have to play for this team” or “I’m black, poor, and gay, so I have to play for that team” we should strive to say “I’m an American citizen, and this is the team I play for, the best in the world.”
The issues that we face today can be solved much easier if we approached them from the perspective of "this impacts Americans" rather than this is a "black issue" or a "woman issue" and exclude all of those who don’t fall into those categories out and label them as the oppressors or enemy. Maybe if we looked at it in a way that encompasses us all instead of just a label or two, we could work together to solve it. If we forget about “privilege” or lack thereof, perhaps we can work in a way that everyone would feel happy to be a part of instead of alienated.
My realist nature gives me doubts about this working in our society. Yet, as I write this in my room in the barracks, I remember how just two years ago, my cadre and the rest of the Institute brought 500 kids together over the course of six months. Tomorrow, another Rat Mass will enter barracks and we will shape them in the way that we were. The enter the VMI Brotherhood that is Bound in Blood. After all, “blood runs thicker than water…”
Love for all those who have reached out over the last few weeks. For those that I’ve hurt, I am truly sorry. That was never my intention. Love you all.Rah Virginia Mil’.