A full and very lengthy disclosure first: I may be the only American male alive who flunked out of the Boy Scouts. Well, maybe “flunked out” isn’t quite the appropriate term. Let’s put it this way: I couldn’t pass the entrance exam.
No it had nothing to do with sexuality. My wiring determined I would be born and remain straight. I had to do with different wiring – the same attention deficit that kept me a borderline student from second grade through college. When I was 10 — or was it 11 or 12?— well anyway, somewhere in that range, I went down to the neighborhood Boy Scout troop to join up.
“Do you know the Boy Scout Oath?” the local scoutmaster asked me.
“No, I don’t,” I confessed.
“What about the Scout Law?”
I’m really, really fuzzy on the next part. But I think I came home with something called The Boy Scout Handbook. And I have the vague impression that the scoutmaster sold it to me, although I wouldn’t swear to it on a stack of Bibles.
“Memorize the oath and the Law and come back next week.”
Well, I overcame my attention deficit enough to memorize, at least for the moment, the oath. It’s the one that begins “On my honor I will do my best…"
But the Law, essentially a string of a dozen adjectives, (“A Scout is: Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind,….” etcetera, etcetera) eluded me. No matter how many times I read it aloud and repeated it to myself, I couldn’t remember all the adjectives, and even when I thought I had them all down, it would turn out I had them in the wrong order.
The scoutmaster listened, his frown extremely grave, and then said, “No no, you haven’t memorized them. Come back next week.” I came back for three weeks in a row, flunking Boy Scout Law each time. Finally I said “Screw you!”and walked out. It was an act of gross insubordination that would have gotten me thrown out of the Scouts in a millisecond, had I ever gotten in.
To hell with it. I was never that interested in tying knots anyway. If anything, I needed help untying knots, particularly the ones in my shoes. To this day, I don’t know a square knot from a clove hitch from a lariat loop. (Although, during a very boring junior high school science class, I do remember figuring out, all on my own and without diagrams, how to tie a hangman’s noose.)
Maybe because I was never involved in scouting, I really never saw the value in it. If you ask me, it’s often just an organized way of frittering away time that ought to be spent on homework. Who the hell cares if you can tie and know the names of fifty different knots or if you won a merit badge in backpacking, bugling, or bird study?
Yes, I know there are merit badges for considerably more advanced subjects, such as the Nuclear Science Merit Badge. Its requirements encourage kids get close to “a radioactive source,” which sounds dangerous, or build a model reactor, which I’m certain Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would heartily applaud. Even so, “nuclear reactor” isn’t the first thing that generally comes to mind when you think about the Boy Scouts, right?
On top of that, the Boy Scouts are pushing a kind of ecumenical religiosity, with scouts encouraged to earn merit badges in their own religions, from Baptist to Meher Baba. (Yes, traditionally discriminated-against religions, from Judaism to "Islamic" to Hinduism, to Zoroastrianism are also covered, although I can't find Scientology on the list.)
With that in mind, the current dustup over whether the Boy Scouts should/should not/should be required to admit homosexuals leaves them in a no-win situation.
Opt in favor of allowing gays to join, and the Scouts will be in deep doo doo with lots of the churches that donate the use of their basements to Scout meetings. And they’ll be pariahs in certain religious communities. Opt against gays and the Scouts mark themselves as discriminatory, uptight, and out-of-step.
Either way they go, somebody will declare them in violation of their self-declared mission to “prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Law.” Ditto if they make the admission of gays a local option.
So I watch inflammatory bigots like this guy with more than annoyance. He’s a worthless boob, trying to ban people who God wired for gay, for reasons so specious and ridiculous that they’d be laughable if not for the fact that the entire concept of Boy Scouts is starting to feel laughable. Maybe the Boy Scouts made sense in the days of Norman Rockwell, who drew idealized America as Americans once ideally imagined ourselves.
These days, though, the Boy Scouts are just a bunch mostly well-meaning but silly people in silly uniforms, tormented by equally silly people with self-righteously bigoted opinions.