It is almost funny to me how our 24-hour news-cycle that I generally hate can change the shape of what I thought I’d say to what I truly end up saying. I felt, and continue to feel, like any discussion about masculinity in the United States really needs to touch on the Boy Scouts of America. When I originally made this decision, the Boy Scouts of America was reserved solely for boys. Girls could not join. This isn’t necessarily something I think is negative, but the way that I have observed it playing out has certainly left me with some concerns.
Until very recently, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had a strong relationship with the Boy Scouts of America. It was the program du jour for young men in the Church. As a result, I often heard stories like this one:
“I was born and grew to boyhood in a small village in Greece. My life was a happy one until World War II. Then came the invasion and occupation of my country by the Nazis. The freedom-loving men of the village resented the invaders and engaged in acts of sabotage to show their resentment.
“One night, after the men had destroyed a hydroelectric dam, the villagers celebrated the achievement and then retired to their homes.”
Dimitrious continued: “Very early in the morning, as I lay upon my bed, I was awakened by the noise of many trucks entering the village. I heard the sound of soldiers’ boots, the rap at the door, and the command for every boy and man to assemble at once on the village square. I had time only to slip into my trousers, buckle my belt, and join the others. There, under the glaring lights of a dozen trucks, and before the muzzles of a hundred guns, we stood. The Nazis vented their wrath, told of the destruction of the dam, and announced a drastic penalty: every fifth man or boy was to be summarily shot. A sergeant made the fateful count, and the first group was designated and executed.”
Dimitrious spoke more deliberately to the Scouters as he said: “Then came the row in which I was standing. To my horror, I could see that I would be the final person designated for execution. The soldier stood before me, the angry headlights dimming my vision. He gazed intently at the buckle of my belt. It carried on it the Scout insignia. I had earned the belt buckle as a Boy Scout for knowing the Oath and the Law of Scouting. The tall soldier pointed at the belt buckle, then raised his right hand in the Scout sign. I shall never forget the words he spoke to me: ‘Run, boy, run!’ I ran. I lived. Today I serve Scouting, that boys may still dream dreams and live to fulfill them.” (As told by Peter W. Hummel.)
Scouting had saved the life of Brother Hummel and it would surely save each and every young man who lived by the principles of scouting. You will never hear me dispute that qualities like trustworthiness, loyalty, helpfulness, friendliness, courtesy, kindness, obedience, cheerfulness, being thrifty, brave, clean, or reverence are bad qualities to embody.
What I will dispute is the attitude that is present within the organization. This is an attitude that was recently summed up exceptionally well (in my opinion) by our family’s daycare provider. Her daughter has expressed an interest in joining scouts, just like her daddy, but they are worried that the attitude within the troop will make her feel unwelcome. Scouting, for boys and girls, is unwelcoming. It is an environment that will exclude you if you are not, and don’t want to become, a rugged outdoors person. This performance of masculinity, that is a performance of something that lacks camaraderie, is where scouting fails to show young people how to be better versions of themselves.