Monday, July 19, 2004

"Looks like you've played a little football.":  Private clubs.  Martha (no, not that Martha, the other Martha), made the news a couple of years back, and has kept her cause going, protesting the right of Augusta National to exclude whole classes of people from its membership.  It was somehow surprising to her that a bunch of men wanted to play golf without a bunch of women around, there being no evidence of this happening daily since golf was invented o'er the craggy moors of Scotland. 
Anyway, her annual diatribe brings to the fore, each year, the perennial argument over whether private clubs should be allowed to keep people out, regardless or reason, those they find "not club material".  Morever, these reasons most assuredly include explicit dis-tastes for those of certain genders, sexual persuasions, races, and notably, political bent.  It seems some rather exclusive clubs in San Fran have these traits, and are not only prosperous, they have twenty-year waiting lists.  Some of these male-only clubs compel women, when they're allowed in at all, come in the back door, and eat in side rooms. 
Now, the point of this post is hardly to debate whether the clubs should be allowed (they're private, and so, they should), but why one would choose to belong.  I've been a member of exclusionary groups; my fraternity being perhaps the most obvious.  Why did I join?  Well in part, b/c most of my friends did, and I wanted to keep hanging around them.  Also, the nearly endless supply of beer was a nice attraction.  But most of all, you join a group to take on that group's identity.  Our identity was our seemingly limitless capacity for alcohol.  It wasn't, certainly, the ability to attract the largest swath of attractive women (even my now-wife, would usually only end up at our house after making a tour of the other ones with her friends - to her credit). 
No, we chose to live together so we could behave like the barbarians we were, taking pleasure in the variety of substances we could consume, and then expel, at regular intervals.  A behavior which we all knew the presence of women would seriously curtail.  Now, I justify what I did on the premise that it was college, and if you're going to get your jollies, that's the time to do it.  You can spend the next 40 to 60 years of adulthood slowing down and acting properly. 
The question is, do I want to join a club akin to my fraternity days (albeit one that is better-funded) now, when I'm ten years (or looking forward) 20 years removed?  I think my answer is "no".  Why?  Because it's reality time now.   It's time to rear your children, work at a job, establish your career, and prove to your spouse that s/he made the right choice way back when.  If you have to reguarly shut yourself behind closed doors, so you can wear blackface and sing minstrel tunes, then I think you've failed at the whole adult thing.  10 hours on the fairway and in the clubhouse is not a right, it's a tacit preference for your caddy over your family or friends.  Do it regularly enough and one can righteously question whether being a grown up is something you're really cut out for.  Problem is that many of these members are running our country and it's top corporations. 
Again, no one should be allowed to close these clubs, or force a change upon them that they don't want.  And it's not to say that private organizations don't effect great good from time-to-time.  But throwing an annual charity benefit when you let the chicks and the darkies in, doesn't quite make up for the time you've spent hiding from them, or worse, belittling or even seeking to harm them behind your mahogany doors.  As a grown up might say:  "It's important to share and play nicely with others."

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