Monday, May 5, 2014

Scouting's Trail of Tears--What Comfort Can Be Given?

This is an example communication, one of many, that I have received recently:
A leader in a Troop contacted me as she's concerned that some of their Troop's leadership is considering leaving Scouting due to their anger about how you and your Troop were treated. As they form the leadership for the Pack that feeds the Troop, their leaving would likely end the Troop as well. The leader I spoke to, who is also a State Legislator, believes passionately that they should stay to help change Scouting from within, and to make sure their boys get the opportunities Scouting has to offer, and at her request I'm visiting their Troop this Thursday to try and talk with the leaders about staying on. I was wondering if you might be willing to write them a short note sharing your thoughts on staying in Scouting that I could share with them then. It is of course their choice ultimately, but I think that your opinion would mean a great deal to them as it was how you were treated that really inspired them to get up and do something. Let me know if you could help with that, and if I can ever help you with anything!
Here is my response:
Dear Fellow Scout,

These Scouts you've told me about have decided that they would rather leave the BSA than stay in an organization that forces them to ditch certain members of the Scouting community. They don't want to be forced to make that choice--they feel their bonds to their fellows, both theoretical and actual, should be primary. They cannot see how they can continue to participate in BSA without ALSO ditching the kids in Pack 98 and Troop 98. Frankly, they're right.

They value the ideals in the Oath and Law higher than their membership in the BSA Corporation. Who can fault them for that?

Imagine if all Scouts in the country similarly held true to the Oath and Law and did the same thing. Would not BSA Incorporated make the change immediately, the change that we all want and need?
If I speak to them and urge them to stay in, am I hastening the change we seek, or am I slowing it down? Because I feel great urgency that the change should come--that it should come quickly, and that every delay puts kids at daily risk. Not theoretical--actual risk with real consequences that are measured in blighted lives and lost treasure.

If all of us agree to NEVER AGAIN ditch our brothers and sisters in this movement then this problem is solved. It doesn't even require a policy change. In fact it never did. It just requires us to live out oaths of loyalty and fellowship, to move from aspirational to actual. That change happens in a heartbeat, and when each of us feels it burning in our chest we know exactly what must be done.
If they can find a way to stay within and not ditch their friends (and I've posted some ideas about how to do that on my FB timeline), then they might want to consider doing that. If it is too painful and they feel they must leave, then they might want to think about how they can do it in a way that helps bring the change sooner--and that means leaving in the grandest way they can. That might mean finding other Packs and Troops, linking with them and all leaving together in a grand gesture.

Whether they stay or leave, what they must never do (and I think this is what they already understand), is they must never ditch, nor permitted to ditch, nor in any other way force from their bounds of love and fellowship, their fellow Scouts, simply because of a difference such as being gay.
I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts and ideas in the comments below.