The Moral Bankruptcy of the Boy Scouts

The Moral Bankruptcy of the Boy Scouts July 28, 2017

Selling Out with a Grin / Photo by Steve Helber, AP

The Boy Scouts of America is an antiquated cohort of corrupt, close-minded, selfish, vindictive, and paradigmatically un-patriotic fascists, who care nothing for the ideals the organisation historically espoused. Indeed, the BSA leadership seems not even to know what words such as trustworthy and reverent mean. The BSA, it is clear, has cynically wielded such concepts as duty, god, and country—maybe from its very beginning as a tool of colonial oppression—to turn impressionable young men, yearning to matter in the world, into ideologues, glorying in their ignorance and laboring to impose on the world, by brute stupidity, if necessary, a rigid system in which the least thoughtful and most brutish white men determine everything, and to their own, exclusive advantage. 

This Eagle Scout (you heard me) will gladly amend this statement and all of the following as soon as I see the BSA leaders collectively denounce, emphatically and without equivocation, #LittlePrincePumpkin’s rambling, morally twisted, self-centered, and nasty speech to forty thousand scouts at the BSA’s periodic Jamboree on July 24th. 

I am aware that the BSA released a statement on July 25th that affirmed its wholly non-partisan character and that it does not support any particular politicians or policies. The responses that roundly denounced this tepid affirmation as wholly inadequate for the moment, forced BSA Chief Scout Executive Mike Surbaugh to issue a subsequent statement including: “I want to extend my sincere apologies to those in our Scouting family who were offended by the political rhetoric that was inserted into the jamboree…. We sincerely regret that politics were inserted into the Scouting program.” 

This subsequent statement is also wholly inadequate. Political rhetoric is not the problem that the BSA must address. 

Surbaugh continues: “Trustworthiness, loyalty, kindness and bravery are just a few of the admirable traits Scouts aspire to develop—in fact, they make up the Scout Oath and Scout Law.” 

The Scout Chief Executive clearly recognises the real problem, but clearly does not possess the bravery necessary to address it as he ought. Quite aside from “partisan politics”, the BSA stood by while a dirty old man debased himself, Scouting, and forty thousand adolescent scouts with a rambling word dump that added up to an immature, nasty, narrow-minded, and self-serving expression of petty jealousy. The BSA stood by while a dirty old man led some substantive percentage of the adult leaders and adolescent scouts who were present in booing his predecessor in a way that was nothing short of racist. The BSA stood by and did nothing, while what it has claimed as its core principles were violated, blatantly and grotesquely. 

That’s the problem. The BSA stood by and did nothing. Where the hell is the moral straightness and bravery in that? 

I’ve heard some say, “What could the BSA do? They didn’t expect this dirty old man would go off in this way. And this dirty old man is the President of the United States. You can’t just denounce the President of the United States.” 

Anyone who has not been in a coma for the past year most certainly did expect that this dirty old man would go off in this way. There is nothing else to this dirty old man. The hope that #LittlePrincePumpkin has any depth has been proven hopelessly vain, over and over. #LittlePrincePumpkin is incorrigibly untrustworthy. “We didn’t know he would…” is a most pathetic excuse, in this case.

Moreover, you certainly can denounce the President of the United States. For what in the Screaming Sam Hill did this country undertake a revolution if not to be able to denounce dirty old men when they disgrace the offices they hold? For all his wishing otherwise, #LittlePrincePumpkin is not royalty. At best, he is “first” among equals in this representative democracy, and treating him as above reproach—direct and unequivocal reproach when he deserves it—is to sell out the American dream of a government by, for, and of the people. 

So, yes, I assert that the BSA failed, miserably, by not taking back their stage immediately and declaring to forty thousand scouts and to the rest of the world, “Most of what you have just heard from the President of the United States is repugnant to Scouting. The BSA disavows hatred, dishonesty, jealousy, and selfishness, wherever, and in whomever, it appears.  The BSA calls on those of you who have here joined the mean-spirited jeering of others to renew your oath and to recommit yourselves to the Scout Law.” 

The BSA can still redeem itself, and act with moral straightness, courtesy, kindness, and bravery. The BSA can still disavow this dirty old man as it ought to have done, right away. 

Without this disavowal, this Eagle Scout sadly concludes that the adults who spoke to him of courtesy and kindness, trustworthiness and reverence, did not hold such concepts in sacred regard, but were merely using these terms to generate a feeling of guilt that would make him and the other young people in their charge more susceptible to propaganda. We must resist this insidious manipulation of the good that circulates in us. 

Accordingly—so that we are conscious of the threat that the BSA poses to the rising generation, and pursuant of the honesty, courage, and moral clarity toward which Scouting, in spite of itself, pointed me—this Eagle Scout offers the following revisions of the Scout Oath and the Scout Law that much more accurately communicate what unavoidably appear to constitute the BSA’s real core principles: 

The (Real) Scout Oath: If I want, I will do my best to feed my ego, to help other people when it profits me, and to be physically indulgent, mentally weak, and, well, morality is for losers. 

The (Real) Scout Law: A scout is devious, treacherous, harmful, hateful, vindictive, cruel, disorderly, joyless, reckless, craven, nasty, and profane. 

I had some wan hope for the BSA, renewed over the last couple of years as a few leaders of integrity and a few important corporate sponsors of whatever motivation, dragged the organisation out of its entrenched anti-LGBTQ+ bigotry, so that Scouting’s all-but-obsolete neckerchiefs-and-knee-socks masculinity came even to accept transgender scouts early this very year. 

The openly unkind repudiations of Scouting by church congregations over the past four years, as the BSA has confronted the way its cruel policies have dehumanised and stigmatised some of the USA’s most vulnerable people, had signalled the emergence of a BSA that did, in fact, value its integrity and its duty to god and country over the shallow approbation of politically-partisan, pseudo-Christians. The BSA’s moves to make genuine equality its reality, in spite of the careful, but deliberate, shuffle towards the exit by the LDS church, Southern Baptists, and American Catholics, signalled the emergence of an organisation that did place doing the right thing above its financial security. That organisation, the one determined to help other people at all times, to be kind and to be brave, no matter the forces arrayed against it, could have shown what made America great, if it ever was. 

Instead, with a stupid hat on its head and a stupid grin on its face, the BSA surrendered the last of its honor, the possibility of a future uncompromised by snivelling cupidity, to the feeble-minded raving of a lunatic, driven by petty jealousy, blind to humanity, whose pride is no deeper than a gold building sporting his name, who feels in the most un-Scout-like way that the country, the world, owes him. 

Our country’s crisis is not that we’ve installed a greedy troll in the White House. This is not the first greedy troll to inhabit that space. Our country’s crisis is that so few of us will denounce wrongness as wrong. So few of us dare to risk the consequences entailed by putting a finger in power’s face. So few of us will let go of money, security, the affirmation and approbation of crowds, the power we imagine we have, to do right, regardless. 

The conceit that the United States is the land of the free and the home of the brave has, perhaps, always been a lie—a myth constructed to excuse the worst of those who think the country owes them. The oligarchs have circled. The cabinet has no spine. The GOP has caved. The desperate rescue of healthcare, notwithstanding, Congress, as a whole, seems perfectly incapable of addressing in appropriate measure #LittlePrincePumpkin’s incompetence. But surely we could, Americans, rise to the demands of this critical occasion and be free and be brave, all together. 

For all its courageous progress of recent years, the BSA will not lead anyone, thus. Certainly not until it can disavow and denounce the wrongness that the President of the United States hurled from its stage on July 24th will the Boy Scouts of America stand again for the laudable elements of the Scout Oath and Scout Law that it has itself set at naught. 

The Gainesville Police department shows how to repudiate a dirty old man and exhibits the courage and moral rectitude that the BSA has surrendered:



*Photo by Steve Helber/AP

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