The time for diplomatic finesse is over. Now they must act in one swift movement. No matter the rhetoric of their opponents, they will move with the necessary resources and manpower to execute the policies discussed all year. The battle will be short, violent and decisive, like a summer rainstorm in Texas hill country.
Tonight is a cappella Tap Night, and the Bush administration should be taking notes.
Tap Night is the climax of a tumultuous month of auditions, singing desserts, rush meals, and tense negotiations between singing groups and freshmen who aspire to join one. The process is bewildering to those of us who don’t sing — what’s the big deal? Why can’t they just have callbacks and post the list a few hours later, like normal performing groups?
Do not scoff. Yale a cappella singers are diplomatic masterminds. They — not the international studies majors or the grand strategies nerds — are the ones who will graduate and become the next Henry Kissingers. Seeing as our current national leaders are alienating the international community and bungling the campaign to invade Iraq, perhaps Bush should forget Sun Tzu and Machiavelli and instead study wartime diplomacy as practiced by his alma mater’s extracurricular superpowers.
The other night I sat with a group of a cappella friends as they hashed out strategies for the final week of rush. Their common room was cluttered with dirty dishes, overflowing trash cans, and an uneaten accumulation of stale bread acquired for free outside Atticus. These young men had more important things to think about than sanitation or nourishment. Someone’s video game was visible on the television screen, only points away from a win, but now paused indefinitely.
I bet Donald Rumsfeld wouldn’t have the discipline to pause his game of Grand Theft Auto just to attend a National Security Council meeting.
The boys spoke in hushed voices and scribbled rapidly in their daytimers. Their matching T-shirts were wrinkled and unwashed, like tattered flags still flying after endless days at war. Elsewhere in the suite, someone was playing mp3s of songs recorded by a rival group and snickering uneasily.
The boys discussed alternate rush meal strategies. One sure-fire way to win over a rushee was to just let him talk about himself, they agreed. Freshmen, like most European states, are unsure of their place in the world and like to conceal their inferiority complexes by blabbering about their talents and high school awards.
George W., are you listening? Get Gerhard Schroder chatting about lederhosen, the craft of beer stein making, and Germany’s other great accomplishments. Then slip in a hint or two about the axis of world-destroying evil.
The informal atmosphere of a rush meal is much more conducive to friendly conversation than the austere floor of the United Nations. At a cozy meal in the dining hall, the Europeans would see that American hegemony doesn’t mean moral policing and heartless capitalism — it means Pan Geos!
Why in the world would you choose to go with Iraq, anyway? They’ve had the same bandit chief as pitch for the past 30 years and they have a well-documented history of using chemical weapons on their own group members when someone sounds off-key. Besides, last time they had a singing jam, we crushed it in a matter of weeks with superior airpower and minimal casualties.
Clever rush meal diplomacy isn’t always enough. A cappella groups know that if you truly want to bring someone on board, the key is not rhetoric, but great food and tight choreography.
A cappella groups, like all honest diplomats, are not allowed to bestow lavish gifts upon freshmen they want to win over. But they are permitted to invite rushees to an evening of singing and schmoozing worthy of “The Great Gatsby.”
When a friend invited me to his singing dessert last week, he did not prepare me for the overwhelming scene of nervous freshmen dressed in suits and ties, crowding around platters of geometrically-arranged veggies and little cakes that probably have French names. There were tables of sushi, classy flower arrangements, and plenty of balding alumni. I was the only one in blue jeans, but no one had to know that — I hid behind the display of CDs and photo albums and faked absorption in “Summer Tour ’98” until people began to take their seats.
When the concert began, I saw that snappy vocal percussion and sassy dance numbers are much more convincing than a windy U.N. speech. The Europeans may find Bush’s Midland drawl distasteful. But music and dance bridge cultures — especially if the finale features Powell, Rumsfeld and Cheney in the Charlie’s Angels poster pose.
Yale singing groups are professionals. Their members are world-class singers who record CDs, charge thousands of dollars per concert, and spend their vacations performing around the globe. It only makes sense their audition process is of the same caliber.
It all ends tonight, after the groups race around Old Campus to tap the best freshman singers. Fates will be decided in a few frenzied but efficient minutes, as in all the best military maneuvers. Afterward troops will be withdrawn and musical regimes rebuilt.
What a shame Bush can’t do the same. No one seems to want to sing in harmony with him, and so far he hasn’t been much of a soloist.
Maybe he should just give up a cappella and join the Freestyle Dueling Association.
Molly Worthen is a senior in Jonathan Edwards College. Her column regularly appears on alternate Wednesdays.