Scout’s (Dis)honor

The Boy Scouts of America have very straight forward descriptors about what it means to be a member of their organization: trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent. There’s not much wiggle room to be had in their core message. Be a good person, and help those who can’t help themselves, basically. This organization has, from its outset, been a measuring stick for how we would like our boys and young men to grow up to be. As early as 10, these lads can be involved and learn these qualities as well as skills that they can use throughout their lives. They can participate until they are 18, and then are free to use the tools they’ve been given out in the real world, all before they can vote. Impressionable minds should be given such tools so that they can become outstanding citizens of not just America, but the world.

On Monday night at the largest gathering of Boy Scouts for the year, The Jamboree, these boys were given a message that was in every way contradictory to their values and credo, and by the President of the United States no less. He turned an evening that is supposed to be about extolling the Scouts in attendance (and even those that weren’t) on their accomplishments into a rally for himself. He swore in one of his opening sentences. He insulted the previous President (who was a boy scout in his youth), and waited for the crowd to boo Barack Obama as he knew they would be compelled to, as they were taught to respect their elders. He spoke at length about the last Presidential election, as he always does, despite the vast majority of Scouts not being old enough to cast a vote. He told an incoherent story of someone who lost their wealth, and framed it as a sad commentary on that person, as though being wealthy is all that matters in life. He regaled them with tales of his youth, at a cocktail party in New York City, well before any of them were born, saying that the “hottest people in New York” were at the party he was talking about. He talked about election night, how the map of electoral votes had so much red, how unbelievable it was. All of this after he said, at the very beginning of his speech, “Who the hell wants to speak about politics when I’m in front of the Boy Scouts?”

It was President Trump’s stereotypical speech; narcissistic, rambling, unrelated to the format and location and especially the audience. There was nothing he said that in any way represented the ideals of the BSA. He had no consideration for how his words could affect those young men. He only wished to push his agenda with no regard to whom he was yelling at. It’s a sad state of affairs that such things were stated in an effort to highjack the very minds we as a nation hope will engage and blossom as they breach adulthood and fan out in to the world.

I would say shame on you, Donald Trump, but shame is not anywhere in your heart or mind. Here’s hoping our youth can ignore the gall and pomposity our current President exudes and become the fine men we know they can be.

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Change is coming. It always does.

Progressiveness is on the right side of history. Our country has shown time and time again that we move forward, not backwards. The history of this country has been built from our birth on progressive and liberal principles, step by step, striving to improve. Staring with our constitution, which had radical and liberal ideals such as freedom of speech and freedom of religion, which were unheard of concepts in the British Empire.

While the Constitution and the Bill of Rights were quite literally revolutionary, they were far from perfect. Slavery was condoned and women were not the equals of men and were not allowed to vote, among other problematic things. It took far too long, but within 100 years we abolished slavery. This did not mean that there was instant equality for people of color (there still is not complete equality), but it was a very big step in the right direction. Amazingly and sadly, nearly another century passed before all laws against black people from voting were eradicated. Slow progress…but progress nonetheless.

Point is, progressivism is what drives this country and what makes us a world leader. In the past progress was slow and laborious. The speed in which we share and consume information today requires change to move swiftly and leaves far fewer obstacles to overcome.

A prime example of the difference in how quickly massive social change can occur is Women’s right to vote versus same sex marriage rights. In 1920, women were finally given the right to vote in political elections. Sixty-four years later, Geraldine Ferraro was the first female vice-presidential candidate. Contrast that with gay marriage rights: Massachusetts was the first state in the US to legalize same sex marriage, and today 32 states now have passed laws given lesbian and gay couples the right to marry. That’s a span of 16 years, and in the last two years alone 16 of those states have made it legal. Progress is no longer driven by a horse and buggy; change now moves drives a Ferrari.

Ultimately, the US has always pushed ahead. Not content to stay put, but to be an example to the rest of the world of how to innovate and how to treat it’s citizens. We embrace that progress is not settling for what used to work; it is all about making things better. To improve humanity.

Which brings me to the present. We now have a party, the Republicans, that control the House and the Senate. According to the policies they want to enact and enforce, they seemingly want our country to stay in the 1950’s, their vision of our golden era. Never mind in that time period, black people had to drink out of separate water fountains and where it was societally expected that women should subjugate themselves to the men in their lives. The problem with this mindset is that America proceeds and does not stay put. We push and push and push forward.

Thing is, I get why Republicans as a whole think this way. Change is a scary thing to many people. It is the great unknown, the future is. It is safe to stay the same, to live in a past that seems a lot better than it actually was. Change is coming and always will. Just 50 years ago, interracial marriage was against the law. Doesn’t that seem rather close-minded now? Looking back, it seems difficult to envision a valid argument against a couple that were two different races from being able to marry the one they love. It seems patently ridiculous that it was ever opposed. But it was. Then history did what it always does: closes the door on intolerant beliefs.

Same sex marriage will be a reality in every state someday, and probably very soon. So will things like equal pay for women, marijuana legalization, raising the minimum wage, creating renewable and sustainable energy, and working to slow down and eventually neutralize climate change. All of that is coming.

The question is…do you want to be on the wrong side of history?