Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Confessions of a failed Cub Scout

Can't remember if I ate that potato --- foil-wrapped and baked in the embers of a barnyard bonfire --- or not. But the potato is about the only memory left of a brief and abortive pre-adolescent venture into scouting. The potato had something to do with survival and a badge, but was it wolf or weasel?

Don't remember why I dropped out either --- most likely minimal interest combined with my parents' willingness to forego trips to and from town at chore time unless the kid demonstrated considerable enthusiasm.

But scouting, both for boys and girls, has been and continues to be a fine program. And it sounds now like the national Boy Scout organization is preparing to drop its unilateral ban on gay scouts and leaders (this has not been an issue in Girl Scouting) --- sort of. Under the plan afloat this week, but not adopted yet, local chartering organizations would be able to set their own Boy Scout agendas, banning or not at will.

Still no word on God. In Boy Scouting (again, not Girl Scouting), non-theists need not apply, although in scouting as formerly in the military, there's probably a good deal of "don't-ask-don't-tell" afoot.

The Boy Scouts' apparent move is a little surprising, since just seven months ago leadership strongly reaffirmed the organization's anti-gay policy. It would be interesting to know who called the Come-to-Je$u$ meetings. Corporate sponsors most likely. Sometimes unbridled capitalism actually works.

I'm all for dropping the ban, but wonder if the unfortunate side effect of a wishy-washy retraction --- if the national deflecta-shield is removed --- will be to move local leaders and scouts into the spotlight as skirmishes in the cultural wars continue. Most of these guys probably don't have much if anything invested in discrimination; just want to get on with scouting.

But if the national organization slinks away, the ball will move into the court of chartering organizations and that has the potential to be painful. It's likely that some chartering organizations heavily invested in homophobia will stand and fight and others, wash their hands of scouting. Both, for the kids (potential  ammunition), would be unfortunate.

One of the interesting questions is why this all has been allowed to become a big deal in Boy Scouting, but not in Girl Scouting --- other than the obvious: women tend to be more sensible in some areas. Probably has something do do with the old and dying patriarchy --- little boys traditionally have been considered more important in the grand scheme of things; little girls, not so much. Gay men and not lesbians, for example, usually are perceived as the bigger threat by folks who worry. For some, the prospect of little gay Cub Scouts must be horrifying. At least I never gave any cause for worry.

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