Burning Sands
By Ruth D. Hubbard on February 11, 2017

Walking through a fraternity hazing cycle with freshman Zurich at a (fictional) Historic Black College (HBC) moved me to tears and left me with more questions than answers. McMurray introduced Zurich and his pledge brothers who were referred by number as a hint of the dehumanizing done in nearly every aspect of the process—in a way that at once captured my affections and instilled in me a fear for what was going to happen next to these young men. Throughout the film he moved between scenes of normal college life and scenes of brutal underground hazing so that I never let my guard down, knowing full well that something painful and degrading was surely right around the corner. As the hazing intensified, I found myself simultaneously rooting for Zurich and his cohort to succeed/survive and hoping they’d drop out rather than cross the next line. Why to those who have been abused grow up to be abusers? I was haunted by the Frederick Douglas quote shared with Zurich by Professor Hughes: “It's easier to build strong children than repair broken men.” This story says that, too often, broken men break men. How will this cycle of abuse end for more than just Zurich? One way I have been thinking about the real-life issues that keep this fire burning is to look through lenses that consider a deeper motivation that drives these young men, a motivation that is at their core as people created by God. Created in the image of God with the purpose of belonging to God and to one another, we are born and live our lives with the longing to belong. In Burning Sands, Zurich’s pursuit of belonging becomes a proving ground for him when he chooses, ultimately, to give up his right to belong to the fraternity in order to belong to a brotherhood of men who resist the temptations of a false belonging. While Zurich’s repentance—that is, his turning away from the way of the fraternity hazing and turning toward a way that cares for another—seemed motivated in the moment by a crisis. However, his soon-to-follow phone call to his father, signals that he has gained a new way of seeing and is following a new way of being. I could not help but wonder whether Zurich and I were both wondering whether his father who had also failed to make it through the hazing and pledging may have done so for similarly noble reasons.

About the Author: Ruth D. Hubbard

1 Response to "Burning Sands"

  1. Very wise. “Hurt people, hurt people,” they say.

    by Lennox J. Moreno Lugo on Feb 14th, 2017 at 11:43 pm
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