(My Very Own) Cub Scout Controversy
I think it’d be fair to say my Dad and I were pretty active in the Cub Scouts. From the age of around eight to eleven, I remember camping, pine-wood derbies, silly relay-races, marshmallows, sing-a-longs, awards banquets, arts + crafts, road-trips — really, really wonderful times I got to share with my Dad, a wonderful man who passed away a couple weeks before my twelfth birthday.
During the dark times of ‘Desert Storm,’ my Dad was called away from home. He was was in the US Navy Reserves and as a Cub Scout, I knew all about honoring God and Country. I tried to be brave, however, my Dad — my go-to Scout-partner — was no longer there to buddy up for relay-races, camping and the pine-wood derby. Training-wheels indeed for a much harsher reality — but, that’s another story…
At the time, my Mom was very-much game to fill-in. And, there was (somewhat of) a place for women at the Cub Scouts. Women could be Den Mothers, social-planners or sort-of cheer leaders at scouting events. However, the Scouts put a premium on Dads. They seemed to get all the fun and hands-on opportunities. Even as a kid, it didn’t seem to me that all things were equal.
Some time during the year my Father was away on Naval leave, there was a new kind of competition introduced: The Father-Son baking/cake decorating event. This would be the very first competition of its kind at the Scouts — and, it had my name written all over it. I knew cake decorating was definitely something I could excel at. Not only did I not need to display any feats of athletic agility, I could be creative. Excited as I was, my Dad was quite far away and not able to participate. Not giving it too-much thought, we figured I’d just team-up with my Mom. It was unbelievable to imagine — though not altogether surprising — that the Cub Scout officials didn’t go for this at-all. Teaming up with my Mother, in their view, would give me an unfair advantage to the other boys who were stuck baking and decorating with their (less culinarily competent?) Fathers. And, after a pretty ridiculous (and public in the gossip-y sort of way) Cub Scout controversy, I was barred by the Scouts from participating in the event. A few weeks later my Mom pulled me from the organization entirely.
The recent stories over the past few years regarding the Boy Scouts have given me a ton occasions to reflect on my relationship with the organization. All the news of homophobia and discrimination were pretty unsurprising to me — I knew when I was eleven that the BSA, as an organization, were clearly sexist. And, up until a few hours ago — before taking the time to really organize my thoughts — I harbored a huge amount of resentment towards the Scouts. Admittedly, it’s been somewhat therapeutic over the years to direct negative vibes at an organization that (SO) very-often discriminates.
However, I’m realizing that if it weren’t for the BSA I’m not sure I would have had those many special moments with my Dad at-all! I did things an (unknowingly gay) neurotic Jewish child probably wouldn’t have done (or had the strength to do) on his own. And, I think that those moments mean a hell-of-a-lot more to me now than any dumb cake-decoration disqualification I was slapped with then (not to mention the litany of other instances of ignorance demonstrated by the oft dim-witted/small-mindedness of the Scouts…)
I believe in what the Boy Scouts say they stand for: family, community, respect for others and respect for one’s self. It’s extremely sad to think that an organization with so much influence would so publicly choose discrimination over inclusiveness; siding with fear over love. With their inaction and delay, the Boy Scouts are sending a crystal-clear message of contempt to what I imagine to be tens, if not hundreds of thousands of frightened, alone and innocent little boys. My heart breaks and aches for each of them.
After much thought, I really believe there is a place in the world for the Boy Scouts; I do. And, while most of my adult life I secretly hoped they’d be shunned out of their own existence, I feel the Boy Scouts have the capacity to be a major force for good; an organization to promote positive and real-life human connection in our sometimes too-virtual world. It’s high-time for the Boy Scouts to do some serious soul-searching.
It’s going to happen; it has to.