A Habit Far Worse Than Tossing Candy

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

Here’s a remarkably relevant email from a reader who can relate to this Annapolis story—and more:

I’m not sure this is relevant, but it felt like something that could weigh into this chickenhawk discussion. I’m a female grad of the Naval Academy and remember those march-overs to the stadium with a mix of nostalgia and anger. The candy was nice. I don’t remember anyone hurling it at us to inflict pain. I mostly remember older people tossing handfuls of Jolly Ranchers or Tootsie Rolls in the air and we would catch a couple of them as they rained down on us, but most would hit the ground and be left behind.

What I remember most about march-overs, though, is the Beer Goggles Game.

This is a game where an upper-class (male) Mid [midshipman] would call out the coordinates of a (usually very young) female civilian as we passed, and the (male) plebes would yell out how many beers it would take for her to be sexually attractive. This was done in the full hearing and with the complete awareness of the commissioned officers who walked along with us. And most of the time the target knew she was being spoken about.

I never said anything because (1) I was a teenager myself and (2) I had to live in a big building with these guys. Better to keep your mouth shut.

It’s almost 20 years since I graduated, so I’m hoping that tradition has disappeared (I haven’t been to a home game in a LONG time). But my point in bringing it up is that Mids aren’t angels and there’s a love/hate relationship with Annapolis that goes beyond the candy issue.

The idealization of members of the military has never sat well with me. There are military members that do extraordinary and heroic things, but for the most part the military is made up of ordinary people who sometimes do crappy things. Idealizing military servicemembers is a way to make ourselves feel better about not taking part in their “sacrifice.”

Thanks for your time. I don’t expect this to be printed, but if it is, please refer to me anonymously.

A quick reminder that all reader emails in Notes are posted anonymously, unless you specifically request otherwise. The identities of anonymous emailers are still verified behind the scenes. A big thanks to this reader for her invaluable view.