Every Wednesday

Every Wednesday I will post something about grief. Sometimes it will be a reflection on an aspect of grief’s landscape. Now and then I will share from my own journey of grief, because in the sharing of our stories we find strength and build a community of people that support one another.

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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Grief For American Society: Boy Scouts

When someone we love dies, we feel grief. When an institution we trusted fails, we also grieve.

If you don’t remember, a politician spoke to the National Jamboree of the Boy Scouts in July and not only gave a political speech, which had never been done before at a jamboree, he also said things that would get a scout kicked out of his troop.

At first, Michael Surbaugh, the Boy Scouts’ Chief Executive, gave the lame excuse that politicians are always invited to speak. After many scouting families around the country wrote about their outrage, he then apologized for the speech being political. Yet he knew that the speech was going to be political because he sent out a message ahead of time warning the volunteers. But this wasn’t the main reason why the families were upset.

They were mad because the speech slapped Scouting’s values in the face, and they wanted to know if Surbaugh was going to defend them. I’m wondering, too, because I was an Eagle Scout and values and integrity were once important.

Every Boy Scout promises to uphold the Scout Law, a 12-part pledge to be Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, and Reverent. The Scout Law is their go-to guide.

What burns my kneecaps is that the values of the Boy Scouts were disrespected and the Boy Scouts did not stand up for them. As for the scouts and former scouts who applauded the speech, they should be ashamed because they turned their backs on the Scout Law.

Let’s face it, the Boy Scouts aren’t on the Top Ten List of things that teenage boys want to do. Scouting wasn’t the thing to do when I was in high school, yet I stuck with it and became a Junior Assistant Scout Master. Scouts are Middle America with Middle American values. They look to help people in need before thinking of themselves. They go camping. They tie knots. They wear green socks with red tassels on special occasions, and often they char the breakfast pancakes.

It seems like many American organizations, including religious institutions, have been corroded by agendas where the ends justify the means, and morals and values be damned. Agendas are supposed to be based upon one’s values, but if you have no values, then you’re just flapping in the wind.

The Scouts only have to build young men of good character. Nothing else. After the speech, the Boy Scouts failed to take responsibility for their actions. They failed to be brave and speak up, afraid of political repercussions. They failed to confront the lack of courtesy for others, and you can go through all 12 parts of the law and make a case for how the wheels came off the bus on each one.

I wrote Surbaugh the day after the speech and asked him why he didn’t stand up for Scouting’s values. I haven’t received a reply from him, nor have I seen any response from the other national Scout leaders. The only reason I heard for why he hasn’t said more was that his company, ATT, wants to merge with Time Warner, and the government has to give its okay. If true, then Surbaugh sold out the Boy Scouts for money. Is there a merit badge for that? I know what to call it.

The only thing left that I can count on is golf because honor still exists there. You don’t cheat, and if you inadvertently break a rule, even if no one else noticed the infraction, you call a foul on yourself and take a penalty stroke.

Scouting taught me how to survive outdoors in all kinds of weather. It taught me leadership skills, and it taught me a code of honor. For these things I am grateful. But if the Scouts aren’t willing to stand up for what they value, then they have no honor left, and they are the burned pancakes in the fire.

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