I’m reaching that magical 10,000 word threshold (this rewrite has been a lot slower than the first write, probably because I actually have a job), and I feel the momentum building. It’s not just the movement into more interesting parts of the plot, it’s also some external factors that make me think more about why I’m writing the story I am.
Maybe it’s a product of my fairly liberal upbringing or maybe it’s just always been this way, but I feel like fraternities are perceived quite negatively and have been for some time. While a lot of the upper class notions embedded within the 20th century perception of fraternities have existed since my own fraternity was founded over a century ago (and indeed, AEPi was founded at least in part because at the time Jewish men couldn’t join most fraternities), most of the perceptions of fraternities and their utter toxicity come from revelations about the conduct of fraternity members from maybe the last two decades. But this belies the issue, because these things only now coming to light doesn’t mean they weren’t happening before.
Here’s my issue, and it is without exaggeration my entire impetus for writing this story. I was a member of a fraternity. There was no hazing, we didn’t throw parties with alcohol or try to get underaged brothers drunk. We were respectful towards women, and as a result built a social foundation of both women and men around our house. While the house was religious in nature we welcomed those of all beliefs and even embraced as brothers many who were not Jewish. I felt like I was part of something that contributed to me as I lent my own time, sweat, and blood to it.
I don’t think my internal view is the minority. I think most people who join fraternities gain something out of it, possibly even something quite significant. And the fact that fraternities have also become a vehicle to prevent people from being held accountable for some pretty heinous actions has completely overshadowed the fact that the Greek system still exists because it is a positive force.
My own positive experiences in a fraternity aren’t necessarily an argument that the Greek system in its current form deserves to continue. Hell, even in our relatively quiet, respectful corner of the Greek universe, the sexual politics were backwards and bizarre. There’s a correlation/causation question about gender dynamics of 18-year olds and single-sex organizations, but whatever it is the current system doesn’t make it better. That said, of all the positives I see in the Greek system, none of them are dependent on single-sex organizations. And certainly none of them are dependent on the norms that the stereotypes are built around, the norms about alcohol and sex. There are certainly convincing arguments out there that the Greek system in its current mutation can not be saved. I can’t state with any conviction that a lot of those arguments are wrong.
That said, I know I gained something from my own Greek experience. And I think, through writing, teasing out what that something is should help provide the necessary context to understand how the Greek system can be inherently good. Before Prohibition helped emphasize alcohol, before the Civil War (yes, the Civil War, it’s an interesting story) introduced hazing, fraternities as they existed in the late 18th and early 19th centuries were forces of academic freedom and the cohesive, somewhat ethereal notion of brotherhood. There’s value buried in there somewhere, beneath centuries of baggage regarding the racial, sexual, and class politics of the academic sphere in total. Even if I’m uncertain of the relevance of fraternities going into the future, I still feel it’s important to tease out the good they can do for young adults, if only to figure out some other way to provide it. As for me, I’m a brother for life, regardless of how much the Greek system of today plagues me.
And that, ultimately, is still what Fratricide means to me, its author. It’s an exploration of how fraternities can be a life-changing force of good and an undeniable source of evil at the same time.