I hated being a Boy Scout for no reasons related to their recent and applaudable decision not to exclude gay Scouts. I hope they’ll also promise not to allow bullying or torturing the gay members once they’ve enlisted, and I do know a little about old-style bullying and torture in the noble arena of scouting.
When I was twelve or thirteen, spindly and timid, I was exiled in July to Camp Steere to master archery, canoeing, Indian lore and mess hall deportment. I did learn how to play “Soupy, Soupy, Soupy” on a bugle, construct a wikiup, tie a bowline on a bight, paddle with a J-stroke and hit a towed cardboard white tail with an arrow from my trusty Bear recurve bow. I was assigned to share a cabin (a three-sided Adirondack, to be exact) with a trio of older boys who were longtime running mates with all the wit and panache of Larry, Moe and Shemp but who had a vast vocabulary of insults and ultimatums. They were big and rough, unkempt smokers and spitters, cussers and head-slappers, all with a taste for arson. They turned my life into a combination obstacle course, stealth experiment and shame-assessment retreat. I was no angel, mind you, but I was ill-equipped to handle even one of them physically (a single try persuaded me). It didn’t help that I was bookish and wore specs.
My tormentors called me Whistle, because I did that a lot, perhaps “against the dark,” and they made me their lackey. All I could do was set occasional traps and snares for them which could not be traced back to me, deny all accusations and snicker on the sly. (The Texas Pete kick in the Kool-Aid? The copperhead in the shower? Yeah, Three Musketeers, that was me, Edmond Dantes.) My vengeful gestures were pretty much unsatisfying, and they were the worst part of scouting, even more horrible than the next scoutmaster I served under with his shaved head, jackboots, swagger stick and a terrier’s voice. After a few months under his tutelage, B.S.A. meant something entirely different to me, and I soon, as they say, left the organization to spend more time with my family.
I’m sure the BSA has evolved and improved, making it difficult for boys like my tormentors to thrive, but the recent announcement of tolerance has set me to thinking what other changes might be called for to create a true organization for Our Time. No doubt they’ve revised their merit badge menu, but I’ve thought up some new (and pretty obvious) merit badge options, because given our current cultural climate, who knows what will be necessary to follow the motto and BE PREPARED?
Poetry as Self-Healing
Sports Team Management
Reality Show Development
Hard Drive Dynamics
Lose Weight Overnight!
Thumbsmanship for Marbles and Texting
Pirate Web Design
Extreme Cell Tower Scaling
Deconstructing the Beatitudes
Apps for Survivors
What ideas do you think the B.S.A. needs? Post a comment below.