The other night, the organizing committee of our Cub Scout pack had a really dispiriting meeting. As we gathered to discuss the fall schedule, fund-raising, and community outreach, we first had to address a stark reality: our numbers are way down. This pack, which has been chartered for over four decades, is running at about one-fifth of the peak participation it reached a scant few years ago. Worse still, the numbers are very top-heavy; the newer dens–the Bears, Wolves, and Tigers–have barely enough boys to comprise a meeting. If we don’t knock it out of the park in terms of recruitment this fall, our Commissioner says the pack might be folded.
Not surprisingly, the precipitous drop in new Scouts coincides with Scouting’s brazen announcements that gay people 1) need not apply, and, worse still, 2) be drummed out and stripped of all honors. I brought this up at our meeting, and we agreed the policy–and the arrogance with which it has been delivered–is having a big effect. Because parents don’t want their kids associated with institutional bigotry.
At this point, I’ve already passed through concern and sadness. I’ve graduated to full-on anger.
I look at my Scouting experience as one of the more profound opportunities to bond with my dad, who helped me every step of the way. I very dearly wanted that same experience with my own boys; in fact, one of the primary reasons I agreed to move out of New York City was the chance to catch on with a Scout troop and avail ourselves with all the outdoorsy beauty that Michigan has to offer.
Since this anti-gay nonsense has reached the national spotlight, however, my ex wants the boys out of Scouting. And I can’t say she doesn’t have a point. I can talk all I want about the values Scouting bestows upon boys, but they’re just as honorable as the value of making a stand and telling an obstinately narrow-minded social Australopithecus to shove it.
She’s already explained to my older son what the BSA is doing, and he isn’t all that happy about it, either. If he quits (which I think will happen), my younger son will very likely follow suit, because that’s what seven-year-old little brothers do. And even the littler one stayed, he’d have to watch his fellow den-mates drop like flies because their parents are taking them out in droves.
This is the real problem. It’s challenging enough for Scouting to compete with all the other recreational programs that kids can join. And with money tight everywhere, these programs depend on parental help more than ever. By telling parents who can distinguish homosexuality from pedophilia that “We’re here, we’re not queer, get used to it,” Scouting has basically undertaken to run a race with lead weights on its ankles.
And from my personal experience, it looks like the race is already lost.
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