The South Hudson Institute of Technology has been in the news quite a lot recently. Here’s from the latest, from prior-service Cadet Blake Page who’s apparently quitting. Now, there are many good reasons not to go to West Point. I think that the institution is generally attended by people who have very little idea what they’re getting into, so getting a variety of perspectives before going is a good thing.
Article is below in italics with my add’l commentary added:
“The title West Point Graduate carries a great deal of weight in this world. Those who earn it are given a “golden ticket” and wear a “ring of power” which will certainly carry them to successful careers with doors flung open in the military, in business, even in personal relationships; as so many are seduced by the historic prestige of the United States Military Academy.
Mhm. This is either tongue-in-cheek or Blake needs to read his JTR. If he’s serious, he needs help. Professional help of the psychiatric variety, to help him deal with delusions.
All of these things seem enticing, but for me personally they are not worth it. As I write this, I am five months from graduation. After nearly three and a half years here, there is no reason to suspect that I would be in any way incapable of completing the final requirements and walking across the stage in Michie Stadium with diploma in hand in another 174 days.
USMA cadets (rightfully) fetishize graduation day, because it means liberty from West Point, but Blake here is patting himself on the back for his decision before he’s even made his argument. I think he means to draw the reader in, but to the jaundiced USMA-Grad eye, he appears undeservedly self-congratulatory. He’s essentially saying that he’s a man above all that worldly treasure and is of better, more principled stuff than his peers, who are staying behind.
Choosing to resign at this point also carries significant risk. [Except that your already-approved resignation and honorable medical discharge, has already removed all risk, you disingenuous twat] The Army may seek recoupment in the form of about $200-300k which I will personally owe, or an additional term of up to 5 years of enlisted service. What could possibly compel me to pass over this incredible opportunity in exchange for such harsh penalties?”
What indeed, Blake? This is more holier-than-thou, falling-on-my-sword, self-righteousness. And are you trying to get out of those penalties by writing this high-profile article that’s being picked up all over our progressive media web as evidence about the cretinous nature of the backwards Christian Army? Maybe you should ask the President to pardon your contract with the country for your courageous stand.
Also, there are a few straw-men in the first lines of this epic denunciation of the Academy. First, he’s making it seem like all downside if he leaves the Academy, as though this is all the Army’s punishment that will be unjustly handed down upon him. It wouldn’t have been if he’d left two years earlier. The Service Academies allow what is essentially a free two-year trial period after which, if you continue to attend, you are obligated to your service commitment. Therefore, Blake elected to continue past this point (which has its own elaborate ceremony and briefings ad nauseam) to head towards glorious graduation. So one hopes there is a compelling reason coming up. I’m certainly waiting on the edge of my seat with baited breath for the other shoe to drop.
While there are certainly numerous problems with the developmental program at West Point and all service academies, the tipping point of my decision to resign was the realization that countless officers here and throughout the military are guilty of blatantly violating the oaths they swore to defend the Constitution.
Wait, the tipping point was finally realizing that oaths to the Constitution were being violated? After 3.5 years? This doesn’t add up to the Brave Words being spoken.
I am a little interested at this point, as some military actions are indeed questionable when viewed in light of the liberties endowed by the Constitution. Hopefully, this turns into a big whistleblower thing…
These men and women are criminals, complicit in light of day defiance of the Uniform Code of Military Justice through unconstitutional proselytism, discrimination against the non-religious and establishing formal policies to reward, encourage and even at times require sectarian religious participation. [Blake, you came from the Army and doubtless after a couple years saw this happening all over the place, like in formations, chaplain's announcements, and deployments. You did deploy, didn't you? Then you went to West Point for the Cash and Prizes you listed above. And now you're unhappy? You can't claim you've been subject to a bait-and-switch. Take some responsibility.]
Auggh! He’s going to the separation of church and state doctrine, which is constantly misinterpreted to mean that government and church functions should never touch. This is incorrect. I was expecting some juicy revelations about some General’s daughter, and he’s giving me complaints about Chaplain’s Time during Beast. He’s also negating his own Constitutionality argument by referring to the UCMJ, which itself explicitly and constantly allows violations of the Bill of Rights. Hint: Before accusing people of being criminal, do your homework.
These transgressions are nearly always committed in the name of fundamentalist evangelical Christianity [Show me.]. The sparse leaders who object to these egregious violations are relegated to the position of silent bystanders, because they understand all too well the potential ramifications of publically [sic] expressing their loyalty to the laws of our country. These are strong words that I do not use lightly, but after years of clear personal observation I am certain that they are true. The following excerpt is from my official letter of resignation from West Point:
I do not wish to be in any way associated with an institution which willfully disregards the Constitution of the United States of America by enforcing policies which run counter to the same.
Mhm, that would be the Army, Blake. When you enlist or sign up, you willfully give up the standard rights that civilians have for the duration of your military service. It’s called following orders, and the orders are those of your superiors in accordance with the UCMJ, and you can be put in jail for not doing it. For someone who’s prior enlisted, you seem awfully ignorant or just pay selective attention to the Constitutional violations you care about.
Examples of these policies include mandatory prayer, the maintenance of the 3rdRegiment Shield, awarding extra passes to Plebes who take part in religious retreats and chapel choirs, as well as informal policies such as the open disrespect of non-religious new cadets and incentivizing participation in religious activities through the chain of command.
As the President of the West Point Secular Student Alliance (SSA), a Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers (MAAF) affiliate, and first Director of Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) Affairs at West Point, I have been in a position to hear countless cadets recount their personal stories of frustration in dealing with the ongoing oppressive and unconstitutional bigotry they face for being non-religious. Cadets often come to me to seek assistance, guidance and reassurance in response to instances of debasing harassment. Many here are regularly told they do not deserve a place in the military…
Well, many of them probably don’t have a place in the military. But that’s a whole other issue.
They are shown through policy that the Constitution guarantees their freedom of, but not from religion. Many are publically [sic x 2. Get an editor.] chastised for seeking out a community of likeminded people because it is such a common belief that Humanism and other non-religious philosophies are inherently immoral and worse.
In fairness, some of this is true. The Army is populated heavily by Christians who project their values and behaviors through the organization. So I understand that point.
While dealing with the bureaucracy of the academy I have had my complaints ignored by several members of my direct military chain of command [Welcome to the Army.]. The ranking chaplain here responded to some of these instances of clear prejudice with the useless statement that he will “do what [he] can in good conscience” (which was nothing) instead of fulfilling his legal obligations [Your group is listed as a support group. By its nature (Secular Student Alliance, QED), it's not a religious association. Why are you going to the Chaplain?]. In dealing with the Directorate of Cadet Activities I have seen the Secular Student Alliance denied recognition for two years because the former director of the organization did not see a reason to recognize an organization for support of nonreligious West Point cadets. Even after finally receiving hard-fought recognition this year, that same organization continues to work with us only half-heartedly. They have only begrudgingly given us a pitifully inadequate budget [Inadequate to what? Is budget determined by proportionate representation, or your druthers? waaah], continue to refuse to list us on their website [oops, it's posted now!], and one of their staff has openly laughed at the idea that we could organize a conference or even produce club t-shirts for our members.
In response to this utter nonsense [actually, although undesirable, it's quite internally consistent, but your name calling isn't helping], and much more [such as? Document, don't name-call], I initiated an Equal Opportunity investigation earlier this semester. I have received nothing but positive responses from the chain of command since then [This is an excellent example of how the Army works. Want something to happen? Threaten to make your boss look bad.]. The Commandant of Cadets himself, Brigadier General Theodore Martin, expressed what I perceived to be a sincere desire to see to it that these issues are dealt with quickly and severely. As happy as I was to hear his words and see his genuine concern expressed, his influence alone will not be enough to change the confidently bigoted culture of this sad place.
Look, kid, I appreciate you standing for your values and convictions, such as they are. However, using derog language isn’t helping your case. “This sad place” probably is only sad for you, and condemning USMA to the scap-heap of history may be warranted, but not over this. Blake’s case would be much stronger if he listed the facts of the case (“Much more”) and avoided gratuitous name-calling. That turns me off immediately.
I’d also be curious to know if there’s any back-story here–like how Blake’s doing at the Academy [Update: here's the backstory. Leaving on a medical discharge because of clinical depression and anxiety.]. Where is he in his class? Number of hours walked? Does he have friends, or is he “that guy”? Many (not a majority, but many) prior enlisted were oddballs at the Academy. Just a little off. Does Blake have any other participation in the place other than pissing off his superiors? Has he been silenced?
Even pissing off superiors isn’t bad when done in good cause and form, but doing it in this sort of over-the-top, accusatory, hyperbolic self-righteous tone makes me think that he’s just out for attention, like publicity-hound Dan Choi.
Also, it seems as though this sort of thing would have a negative impact on his career in the Army anyway. Is he trying to get out of that career path? Is he hoping that taking up a “cause” will get him out of his Army or monetary obligation?
The gulf between the intent of a General Officer and the execution of that intent by those in positions of immediate authority is massive in a complex bureaucracy entrenched in over 200 years of tradition. This chasm is widened by the rarity of people like General Martin who are willing to take on a proactive role in attempting to ensure that equality is established. The existence of decades of legal precedent and policies prohibiting this pervasive religious bigotry has not stopped it from happening in the past, and will most certainly not stop it from happening in the future so long as the many who oppose it remain too timid to stand up and be counted. I am making this stand in the hope that others will follow by whatever means they must. Perhaps now some of the 136 cadets, faculty and staff at West Point that are represented by the MRFF may find the courage to make themselves heard.
Although I have decided that I do not wish to be a part of the Long Gray Line,
This is the stupid part. You had prior Army service and two years to figure this out and make up your mind, but 5 months before graduation you’re going to quit. Hey, Blake, guess what? Your decision-making process sucks. You just wasted someone else’s slot and 4 years of your life at the Academy. Whatever I think of your cause, this demonstrates either a) a remarkable late surfacing of self-awareness, or b) total lack of self-awareness.
there are many other bright young men and women who will remain here and continue the work I started. Their efforts, combined with support from Jason Torpy and MAAF, Mikey Weinstein and the MRFF, Lyz Liddell and the rest of the wonderful staff of SSA national, and many other organizations will ultimately lead to the development of a flourishing community of support for non-religious cadets at West Point.
It is pathetic that so many leaders in the military are comfortable with both subtly and brutally discriminating against non-religious members. Perhaps with enough external pressure brought to bear by continued civil rights activism, America’s military leadership will one day soon be forced to realize that non-religious soldiers are not enemies of the state to be shunned, ridiculed and marginalized, but rather patriotic, honorable Americans to be respected as equals.
So, let me sum up. Blake is gratuitously self-interested, unobservant, stubborn, has poor people skills, a hypocrite, and spent too long to figure out what mattered to him, and now that he’s got his med discharge in his pocket, he claims to be quitting. Some takeaways:
1) You can’t change the Army. Change comes from the top. Don’t stick around if you find something you don’t like and you can’t live with it.
2) Don’t be a self-important, self-congratulatory, morally masturbatory, pompous ass. Even when you do have a good point (and Blake does have a point), being a complete pain in the ass turns people who might otherwise be allies off.
3) Sticking up for what you believe in is a positive quality. I admire that, even if not in the form it’s done here.
And in case anyone’s wondering, I don’t think the Army should be taking part in proselytizing activity, which it does do. For a culturally uniform group, religion is wonderful. For a large and culturally splintered (i.e. across race, place of origin, etc) entity such as the Army, it makes no sense. Wars between countries have been fought over those differences, we don’t need to aggravate them within the Armed Services.
That is all for now.
***** update from the article’s comments, from a USMA grad calling himself thepeach*****
While superbly articulated, Page’s short manifesto reveals in its opening paragraph his wholesale swallowing of the hook, line, and sinker of “I’ve got my ring and my sheepskin from West Point, which way is Easy Street?” This usually follows thoughts like “I’m armed with this list of perfect core values from the perfect instituion; thus, everyone else will gladly follow them as I am a leader now.” Reality is far from that. I’ve received quite a few tickets over the years; none of which were “golden.” They were usually black-on-white orders directing me to various duty assignments of greater or lesser desirability throughout the world or pink carbon “driver’s copies” demanding a remittance for moving to quickly to get there. The “ring of power?” Mine apparently has dropped its “fill.” Who has the ANCD so I can get back on the net?
Much to my chagrin, I have NEVER enjoyed a single advantage for having attended the Military Academy in a professional or personal venue. In an egalitarian force that is presumably rooted in the principles espoused by the framers of the Constitution, no advantage should fall to anyone in the military based on the source of commissioning, last name, dad’s rank, wife’s dad’s rank, assets, or personal appearance. However, that statement in itself is a superlative that doesn’t stand up to the realities of life and how things go in the “real world” if an assessment of current events are taken into account. Whoever is personally or institutionally promulgating this fantasy of being “set for life” or resurrecting ghosts of “the way it was” needs to stop…right now. Tell it like it is and don’t create unrealistic expectations moral, ethical, religious, or otherwise. The Army would implode and al-Qaeda would be grilling fresh lamb in the courtyard of the Pentagon if every little “white lie,” ethical discrepancy, or moral failing that didn’t meet the standard of the United States Military were brought to account. Wake up, smell the coffee, and watch the news.
Ahhh, yes, West Point, Lee, Jackson, Custer, MacArthur, Ike, me…It would have been great though. I had envisoned something like Skull & Bones, but on a larger scale and absent the part about masturbating in a casket. West Point would be an exclusive club where the bonds of brotherhood supersede any formed in the past or future. I’d take care of “the club” and “the club” would take care of me. There would even be a bevy of gorgeous, well-mannered, and well-groomed brunettes, blondes, and reds culled from nice families and Ivy League women’s colleges to choose from who couldn’t wait to jump at the chance to be part of the adventure. You’d better believe they would look the part too because they would represent “the club.” You see, “the club” would make sure all of this happened. Armed with a specially commissioned Colt’s Automatic, steeped in the romance of our martial history, and wearing the finest tailored uniforms money could buy I would be ready to “kick ass and take names” on behalf of the Constitution, a “no holds barred” foreign policy, and the American people. Who wouldn’t want that? At some point during my first week of active duty, I woke up to “real life” and none of the fantasies ever materialized.
I was 100 years too late or I fell asleep during the in-brief like I did down in Eisenhower Hall when George W. Bush came to visit. However, sentimentality often makes things in the past appear better than they actually were. Promulgation of the “golden ticket” myth entirely avoids the last 50 years of our social, political, economic, and military history. In my estimation, the West Point GOBN (good ol’ boy network) where, regardless of rank, “even if you screw up we’ll take care of you” died in the 60′s. Unless, of course, you are a full rank general or sycophantic straphanger of the same. That is another club entirely and is of a more sinister and dangerous nature to the Army than some “Jesus freak” or “fundamentalist Christian crusader” on the staff and faculty at West Point. This latter club is composed of the beautiful, the monied, or those petty dynasties where the “pater familias” carries the rank of general. These are folks who can’t fail if they tried. If they do fail, it is spectacularly and they come out at the other end little worse for wear. If you believe for one second that no one at 2LT Petraeus’ first assignment didn’t know who he was or, more importantly when viewed through the lens of that time, who Mrs. Petraeus’ was, I have some wonderful long-term investment strategies I would like to discuss with you concerning the Iraqi dinar.
In my opinion, Page’s concerns are largely imagined or exaggerated. However; in fairness to him and his viewpoint, one man’s molehill is another man’s mountain. His true reasons for departing are known only to him, but you must give him credit for taking a stance. It seems to me that he is falling on his sword for nothing of substance though. I did not observe aggressive proselytizing at West Point 20 years ago. However, I have observed active duty leaders over the last 18 years (who aren’t chaplains) proudly carrying around leather bound Bibles on top of their training meeting notes or other work related documents or manuals. Their name is usually blind stamped in gold leaf at the lower right corner of the cover. “Run away, don’t walk…” Generally speaking, I avoid those folks as they are prone to overlaying a “fundamentalist Christian moral template” on every situation. In layman’s terms they are a “buzzkill” and have their head just as high in the clouds and are unaware of the realities of the world in the same way that someone who believes a West Point ring will guarantee you a spot on the guest list during Hef’s next bash at The Mansion. Bypass these folks, if possible, and continue mission…If you can’t, make up some stories of raucous debauchery and watch them squirm.
On a final note, please forward the contact information for any single ladies as described above who are subject to being “seduced by the historic prestige of the United States Military Academy.” While I sincerely wish him well in his future endeavors, Page should consider stand-up comedy. Epic fantasia going on here…did they add LSD to the Eggs MacArthur recipie? More often than not it went something like this: “Where did you go to college?” (in my best Clark Gable, sideways, coy, yet confident response) “West Point.” “What’s that?” That is what is colloquially known as a “wake-up call.”