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Once an Eagle
August 12, 2012 11:12 AM   Subscribe

Eagle Scouts Returning Our Badges, a tumblr of pictures and letters from US Scouts renouncing their Eagle award.
posted by zamboni (112 comments total) 67 users marked this as a favorite

 
This was incredibly moving. Good on these eagle scouts for upholding the principles of the oath they took.
posted by dpx.mfx at 11:26 AM on August 12, 2012 [18 favorites]


Kudos to these guys.
posted by dazed_one at 11:27 AM on August 12, 2012


Shows if you teach honor and dedication and persistence and fairness and charity some kids will take those lessons to heart and do the right thing.
posted by cjorgensen at 11:28 AM on August 12, 2012 [65 favorites]


It needs to be really hammered home to the general public that the BSA has no official standing, and does not and need not be regarded as the main embodiment of Scouting in America. The BSA needs to realize that it's not entitled to the position that it enjoys and can lose it.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:30 AM on August 12, 2012 [16 favorites]


It's pretty tough to earn this award. It takes an equally strong and decent person to make this decision.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:30 AM on August 12, 2012 [23 favorites]


Boy Scouts needs to return to its pagan wolf's head worshipping roots.
posted by srboisvert at 11:40 AM on August 12, 2012 [6 favorites]


Pagan scouts! Loyalty, honor, and ritual bloodshed
posted by The Whelk at 11:44 AM on August 12, 2012 [7 favorites]


I'm an Eagle Scout and while I disagree with the decision that the BSA has arrived at with regards to membership of homosexuals, I will not be returning my Eagle Scout badge. I worked hard to earn that achievement. My parents, sister, friends, other Scouts, & Scoutmasters all helped me to earn that award. It was hard fought. It is possible to not agree with the decision that is made from up high and still proud of the organization. Gay or straight, sexuality, wasn't really a big deal in my troop. We were young boys more interested in fishing, camping, hunting, starting fires, & telling ghost stories.
posted by Fizz at 11:45 AM on August 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


I hope these letters and medals are saved by the BSA. They will be valuable some decades from now for an exhibit in their museum called "Homosexuality and Scouting." The exhibit will have a wall - between the section devoted to discriminatory policies and the section devoted to acceptance - filled with these medals and letters under the label "Scouts stand up for what is right." It will be one of the most moving parts of the exhibits, aside from the video of former scouts crying after the meeting where anti-gay policies are finally and officially purged from Scouting.

I hope I live to see the exhibit.
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 11:47 AM on August 12, 2012 [88 favorites]


I worked hard to earn that achievement. My parents, sister, friends, other Scouts, & Scoutmasters all helped me to earn that award. It was hard fought.

Yeah. That's kinda the point of the gesture.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:50 AM on August 12, 2012 [128 favorites]


I worked hard to earn that achievement.

You will still have earned it even if the badge falls in a river tomorrow, never to be seen again. The work and effort and support will still have happened.

I'm not saying you must return it; that's an entirely individual decision. But returning it does not somehow make the earning of it disappear.
posted by rtha at 11:57 AM on August 12, 2012 [15 favorites]


Letter after letter, these are all incredibly moving. Like this one, from Ben Bradford:
I cannot, in good conscience, retain this award while kind, upstanding and ethically sturdy citizens of this country are denied the same honor due to their sexual orientation. As long as this award remains in my possession, I feel silently complicit in this discriminating behavior. [...] The Eagle Award was one of my proudest achievements as a boy and I am terribly sad to part with it. The boy within me is broken-hearted. But today I am a man and as a man I wish to distance myself from an organization that seems bent upon squandering its merits in a deep trench of hypocrisy.
posted by scody at 12:03 PM on August 12, 2012 [72 favorites]


And the Eagle Scout medal need not only be associated with a decision that someone high up made. It can be more than that. It IS so much more than that.

I get what you're saying rtha and I've been thinking about this for the past month or so, whether or not I should return my badge along with a letter. Will think on it some more. For now though, I'm trying to focus on all the good that I did in scouting, all the good it did for me when I was growing up.
posted by Fizz at 12:05 PM on August 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


I will not be returning my Eagle Scout badge.

No one's asking you to, but I can say I respect these guys for having done so. Returning your medal doesn't undermine your accomplishments.

Perhaps we're not there yet, but as long as the BSA keeps taking the stance they are, eventually their symbols and medals will come off like a flag of the Confederacy; when you proudly display it, a lot of people look at you with scorn, and a lot of others will never understand your pride.
posted by cjorgensen at 12:05 PM on August 12, 2012 [7 favorites]


I hope these letters and medals are saved by the BSA.

Same here. Hopefully they will be returned when the BSA reverses its policy.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 12:09 PM on August 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


I didn't allow my son to join scouts, because of the BSA's stance. My younger brother, an Eagle Scout, didn't understand. He still doesn't.
posted by Mojojojo at 12:12 PM on August 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


I got as far as Life Rank, a step shy (yet miles before) Eagle. Then I discovered girls and their wiles so I never went all the way.

In scouting.

Is anybody bleeding? I am excellent at applying tourniquets.
posted by hal9k at 12:16 PM on August 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


I guess I'm just struggling with the fact that I enjoyed scouting so much as a child. I never really thought about the politics of this decision growing up. I guess that might have more to do with the fact that I'm not gay. If I was, it would obviously effect me much more.

I'm not saying that this feeling is the right one but to just distance myself from that badge seems wrong some how. As if I'm betraying my childhood. That probably doesn't make much sense but it's just how I feel. I shouldn't have to hate something that was from my experience only ever associated with positive memories. No one is saying I should but it's a situation that makes me feel conflicted.
posted by Fizz at 12:18 PM on August 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


I shouldn't have to hate something that was from my experience only ever associated with positive memories.

They hate the policy, not scouting. Since by your own admission, the policy was never associated with positive memories for you, you can hate it. The reason why this gesture has power is because, like you, these men LOVE scouting. If they hated scouting, the gesture would be empty.
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 12:22 PM on August 12, 2012 [34 favorites]


Fizz, have you had a look at the tumblr page? Others who have turned in their badges felt similarly conflicted. For example:

Turning my badge in, and renouncing my affiliation with The Boy Scouts of America is something that I do with mixed emotions.  Boy Scouts played a prominent role for me in junior high and high school and I have many great memories associated with scouting activities. 

However, I cannot be associated with a group that actively and openly discriminates against my friends, neighbors and fellow citizens.  I feel your position is a slap in the face to the American ideals of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. 

posted by keep it under cover at 12:24 PM on August 12, 2012 [8 favorites]


These letters are really well written and very moving--precisely because you can tell how much being an Eagle Scout and scouting in general meant to them. I hope this effects some change in the organization.

I hope these letters and medals are saved by the BSA.
Same here. Hopefully they will be returned when the BSA reverses its policy.


I particularly liked the letter from David Peck; he ends by saying, "I have enclosed my my Eagle Scout medal and I am returning it to you. Please take note of my name, and as many other names of Scouts doing the same just-in-case the BSA realizes the errors in their policy so that we can all have the chance to reclaim our association with you. I’m sure that many of my fellow former Eagles would be happy to rekindle this broken relationship."
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:28 PM on August 12, 2012 [6 favorites]


Gay or straight, sexuality, wasn't really a big deal in my troop.

Are you straight?
posted by andoatnp at 12:33 PM on August 12, 2012 [33 favorites]


andoatnp,

I mentioned that above, that I was straight and this is probably why it wasn't a big deal to me, because I never have had to face that particular prejudice or social stigma. I am seriously considering returning my badge. Will watch this thread and read some of the letters on that tumblr. If I do make that choice, I'll be sure to mention it in here. I'm glad this discussion is taking place.
posted by Fizz at 12:40 PM on August 12, 2012 [38 favorites]


My memory of scouts in the UK mainly involved giggling about shitting into holes in the ground, practising our new knot-tying skills on the weaker members of our troop (*cough*, that would be me), Stormhaven tents full of noxious boy farts, and cooking outrageously greasy breakfasts. Oh yeah, and getting beaten up by normal kids because of the stupid bloody uniforms we wore.

So it's kind of interesting to read that in America some people actually take this shit seriously. Two countries separated by a common language and all that...
posted by Decani at 12:40 PM on August 12, 2012 [6 favorites]


I mentioned that above, that I was straight and this is probably why it wasn't a big deal to me

Consider my question for rhetorical effect, then.
posted by andoatnp at 12:44 PM on August 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


To me, I thought the claim about Boy Scouts, and especially, being an Eagle Scout, is it helped make good people, whatever exactly that means. Courageous, moral, upstanding, etc. However it's defined. And it's pretty clear to me what the courageous moral upstanding thing to do here is.

If being an Eagle Scout is just about being really good at tying knots, then I guess it makes sense to keep the badge.
posted by andoatnp at 1:01 PM on August 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Everyone knows that you get the highest power level if you go almost all the way as a Paladin, or Dark Sorcerer, but at the very last moment renounce your prior path. The Fallen Paladin or the Redeemed Chaotic Evil types always get that extra boost to their stats.
posted by Chekhovian at 1:04 PM on August 12, 2012 [5 favorites]


So the Boy Scouts want to teach kids to be kind, thoughtful, considerate leaders..... from the looks of these letters, individual Scouts --- if not Scouting leaders --- are all that and very articulate, too!
posted by easily confused at 1:09 PM on August 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yeah. That's kinda the point of the gesture.

Attention-whoring is in neither the Boy Scout Oath or Scout Law.
posted by cog_nate at 1:10 PM on August 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


When I was about to be inducted into the Boy Scouts, I remember saying (of the oath that you have to take) "but I don't believe in god."

The response from a future Eagle Scout: "It doesn't matter if you believe it. Just that you say it. Then you can go camping. Just say it."
posted by Flunkie at 1:12 PM on August 12, 2012 [7 favorites]


Attention-whoring is in neither the Boy Scout Oath or Scout Law.

Trolling is?
posted by found missing at 1:13 PM on August 12, 2012 [29 favorites]


As a (gay) former scout, I appreciate the gesture but I very much doubt that the BSA, or more realistically the Mormon church, particularly cares very much.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 1:21 PM on August 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Wouldn't it be lovely if these Eagles would assume the mantle of mentors to a new organization, perhaps to be called simply "Scouts"?
posted by cookie-k at 1:26 PM on August 12, 2012 [16 favorites]


Posted this to my Facebook page an hour ago.

A high school friend of mine who I helped earn his Eagle just responded:

"I've added mine to the list. My medal goes back tomorrow. I find the teachings of intolerance to be against everything I was taught."

Holy crap: This is catching on!
posted by ZenMasterThis at 1:28 PM on August 12, 2012 [12 favorites]


Attention-whoring is in neither the Boy Scout Oath or Scout Law.

Is this really how you see this gesture, and really the language you use?

Here's the language I use in response: Shame on you.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:39 PM on August 12, 2012 [41 favorites]


Attention-whoring is in neither the Boy Scout Oath or Scout Law.

I don't think anyone involved in this is an "attention whore." These letters could all be silent, individual gestures, but by making them public the statement has more meaning and can inspire others to do the same if they feel it's the right thing to do. Sure, it might be more "noble" to quietly return your medal, but this is at least partly about activism so it needs to be made public.
posted by asnider at 1:41 PM on August 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


Regarding Mormons and other religious affiliations to the BSA:
"Religious organizations host/sponsor over 60% of the approximately 123,000 Scouting units in the United States and use the Scouting program as part of their youth ministration. Officials from various religious organizations—including the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon), Catholic, Methodist, Lutheran, and Presbyterian churches—are included on the BSA National Executive Board, its Advisory Council, and the BSA Religious Relationships Committee."*
--------
"Newsweek:
'The Boy Scouts are the official boys’ youth group of the LDS, and more than one in nine Scouts are Mormons. Critics say the church exerts disproportionate influence through membership on the national advisory council and vigorous fund-raising. (In New York, LDS leaders recently launched a fund-raising campaign with pamphlets carrying an endorsement from the church’s current prophet.)'
Next to the Mormons, the Roman Catholic Church is also a major supporter of the Boy Scouts and their endorsement of anti-gay and anti-atheist policies has been crucial for the continued bigotry and discrimination. The exclusion of gays and atheists from the Boy Scouts qualifies as bigotry because the exclusion is based upon the assumption that being gay and being an atheist makes one fundamentally inferior. If the Scouts discriminated against Jews or blacks because such people were incompatible with the moral and patriotic misson of the Scouts, the outcry would be tremendous. But such bigotry against gays and atheists seems acceptable - especially when backed by major American churches." *
--------

Interesting tidbit from earlier this week: Obama, Romney opposed to Boy Scouts ban on gays.
posted by ericb at 1:42 PM on August 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


Romney stands by his 1994 statement:
"I support the right of the Boy Scouts of America to decide what it wants to do on that issue. I feel that all people should be able to participate in the Boy Scouts regardless of their sexual orientation."
posted by ericb at 1:43 PM on August 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


@cog_nate - I'm wondering if you'd explain why you believe this is "attention-whoring"? I'm only passingly familiar with your contributions on this site, but I've never gotten the sense that you're a rabble rouser or a troll, so I'm assuming there's more to your thought than that?
posted by dotgirl at 1:43 PM on August 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Maybe Obama could step up and renounce his honorary position as president of the BSA?
posted by Mojojojo at 1:47 PM on August 12, 2012 [8 favorites]


Another gay former scout, but thankfully not BSA.

The timing is right for a new scouting movement in the US. There is no particular reason that BSA be the only scouting movement there. Many (most?) countries have numerous scouting movements, usually then members of a national scouting federation. Sweden has, for example, both YMCA-scouts, sea-scouts, temperance society scouts and what I consider "normal" scouts.

I think the boys and men on the tumblr embody what I consider to be the best gifts of scouting.

Names for a new movement? All American Scouts?
posted by Iteki at 1:49 PM on August 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


"I support the right of the Boy Scouts of America to decide what it wants to do on that issue. I feel that all people should be able to participate in the Boy Scouts regardless of their sexual orientation."

What a perfectly Romney position to hold.
posted by Navelgazer at 1:50 PM on August 12, 2012 [20 favorites]


I found this very moving:

It doesn’t need to be this way. On one outing during my time as Senior Patrol Leader, as I helped lead our troop on an urban hike through downtown Indianapolis, we inadvertently wandered into the route of one of the city’s early LGBT pride parades. As the troop walked through the parade, each of us wearing the uniform of an organization that openly excluded gay members, the parade participants cheered for us, offered gestures of goodwill, and showed us what true openness and tolerance looked like. I’ve reflected on this encounter often.
posted by availablelight at 1:52 PM on August 12, 2012 [29 favorites]


So it's kind of interesting to read that in America some people actually take this shit seriously. Two countries separated by a common language and all that...

Among many other things, to make Eagle, you have to plan, develop and lead a community service project before your 18th birthday. So yes, it is slightly more impressive than shitting in holes.
posted by middleclasstool at 1:55 PM on August 12, 2012 [6 favorites]


What a perfectly Romney position to hold.

The Cognitive Dissonance of Republican Logic

posted by found missing at 1:57 PM on August 12, 2012


I know that I can not remain an Eagle Scout at heart if I remain an Eagle Scout in name. My retention of this award is of far lesser gravity than the withholding of the same award from so many deserving others.

I wonder if the BSA bigwigs will even bother to read these letters. I'm glad the rest of us can.
posted by FelliniBlank at 1:59 PM on August 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


"At the time Romney made the statement about his personal beliefs vs. the right of the Boy Scouts to self-determination, he was actually on the Boy Scouts' National Executive Board. Which means his personal opinion should have been part of the Boy Scouts' self-determination. Saying that 'they,' the Boy Scouts, have the right to decide whom to admit to their ranks makes little sense. He should have said 'we,' and then explained when, why, and how he and the rest of the scouting world had parted ways on the issue. *
posted by ericb at 2:00 PM on August 12, 2012 [7 favorites]




Major League Soccer will not renew partnership with Boy Scouts of America following 2012 season -- "After just one season, MLS has opted not to renew its agreement with the Boy Scouts of America."
posted by ericb at 2:05 PM on August 12, 2012 [13 favorites]


"Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna is an Eagle Scout, a gubernatorial candidate, and a Republican. Yesterday, through a spokesman, he denounced this week's decision from Boy Scouts of America to uphold the institution's ban on gays.*"
Note to others ...
WRONG side of history || RIGHT side of history.

YOU decide!
posted by ericb at 2:08 PM on August 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


L.A. Times: Boy Scouts' Wrong Path -- "Excluding atheists and gay people is a sad evolution and unnecessary evolution for the group."
posted by ericb at 2:11 PM on August 12, 2012 [2 favorites]




Scouting Ireland's statement re. BSA stance. They have approved a LGBT Fellowship Patrol and are developing materials on coming out to add to their curriculum on whole health.
posted by Iteki at 2:14 PM on August 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


I've always been a little proud of having been asked to leave my scout troop for insubordination/refusing to take things seriously. But now I'm a little sorry I only made it to Life- I'd like to be able to write one of these letters.

This is my favorite so far: It is with great regret that we write to you—father and son—to return the Eagle Scout medals we are no longer proud of wearing. Bringing father and son together- now *that's* the spirit of scouting!
posted by hap_hazard at 2:22 PM on August 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


I never thought earning Eagle was a big deal; it was just finishing what I'd started. I was already a budding agnostic when I did my Board of Review, and I had to come up with some handwaving statement of faith. I think I played the Jefferson Card: yeah, I think Jesus taught some great things (please don't ask me to comment on his divinity). I was almost eighteen and just wanted to be done with the damn thing. Didn't even have a big ceremony with my troop; I think my Scoutmaster (who was a hell of a good guy) just gave me the badge at a troop meeting.

I think the medal is buried in my garage somewhere, and the badge is still glued to a plaque on my parents' wall in my old bedroom. Is it worth digging up the medal and prying the badge off the wall to send them back to a bunch of insular bigots who couldn't care less about anything but my money?
posted by RakDaddy at 2:40 PM on August 12, 2012


Relevant.
posted by Wordwoman at 2:41 PM on August 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Is it worth digging up the medal and prying the badge off the wall to send them back to a bunch of insular bigots who couldn't care less about anything but my money?
You're the only person who can answer that question.
posted by Flunkie at 2:44 PM on August 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


I am of two minds about this, really. First impression is that it is a pretty noble stance to take. Second impression is more along the lines of the civil rights movement ideals - you don't fix the situation by getting off the bus.

You fix it by actively working from within to stop this stupidity. You fix it by being a member of the organization not afraid to ignore the rulings from on high, to create a safe place within your local scouting groups for all children to enjoy what scouting was supposed to be: bonding with fellow kids, bonding with your parents (moms in cub scouts, dads in later years), learning from the examples set by the leaders you are supposed to look up to.

I am not turning in my Eagle badge, because I see that as an effectively empty gesture, really. As others have noted above it is highly unlikely the current executive leadership will give a damn. All these people are doing is what the LDS and RCC want - taking those who disagree Witt he anti-gay policy out of the organization, volntarily, saving them the trouble of booting them via executive order.

As I see it, I don't change the bigotry by refusing to participate. I break the bigotry by actually doing something proactive - taking control on a local level and doing what is right. When my son is old enough to take part in scouting, I will for damn sure be right there with him to ensure that he has the same positive support my brothers and I had. All three of us are Eagles, not one of us was pushed to be anti-gay or pro-religion. I'm an Eagle, I'm for gay marriage, and I think god is fake, and surprisingly I don't see a conflict between the values I learned in scouts and the worldview I have today.

If they don't want me and my views on human decency, they are going to have to excommunicate me. Until they do, I'm going to keep pushing for change from the inside. Leaving and starting a new organization is some "separate but equal" kinda shit to me. I won't let them take an organization started by a guy many think may have been gay and turn it into a training camp for fundamentalists. That wasn't my experience in scouts. It will only be so for current kids if we step away and let the bastards win.
posted by caution live frogs at 2:50 PM on August 12, 2012 [20 favorites]


I found this much more moving than I had expected. Boy Scouts is one if those things that can appear incredibly dorky from the outside, while meaning a great deal to the people involved. Really, the boy scout code seems like it could be a great, humanist moral system -- no need to bring God and ancient prejudices into the mix.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 2:52 PM on August 12, 2012


Attention-whoring is in neither the Boy Scout Oath or Scout Law.

Yeah, this strikes me as a really weird way to characterize the act of speaking out against discrimination. You obviously have an opinion on this matter, so why don't you come out and say what you mean, instead of hiding behind a vaguely stated quibble?

Consider this by Edmund Burke:

"It is not enough in a situation of trust in the commonwealth, that a man means well to his country; it is not enough that in his single person he never did an evil act, but always voted according to his conscience, and even harangued against every design which he apprehended to be prejudicial to the interests of his country. This innoxious and ineffectual character, that seems formed upon a plan of apology and disculpation, falls miserably short of the mark of public duty. That duty demands and requires that what is right should not only be made known, but made prevalent; that what is evil should not only be detected, but defeated. When the public man omits to put himself in a situation of doing his duty with effect it is an omission that frustrates the purposes of his trust almost as much as if he had formally betrayed it. It is surely no very rational account of a man's life, that he has always acted right but has taken special care to act in such a manner that his endeavours could not possibly be productive of any consequence."
posted by keep it under cover at 2:53 PM on August 12, 2012 [11 favorites]


I particularly liked the letter from David Peck

Actually that one threw me because I did the math and can't understand what kind of troop leadership would give a kid an eagle badge at 13. My leaders flatly refused to allow anyone to shoot for it until they had hit a certain level of maturity, because in their minds (and mine, I have realized) it was the only way to ensure that the child and not the parents were the ones behind the work, and more importantly that earning the bade was a whole lot more than just checking off a bunch of requirements on a list.

posted by caution live frogs at 2:56 PM on August 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


The more I think about the more fascinating this is becoming.

The Boy Scouts are deeply ingrained into American culture. Now many of their own (past and present) are turning against them.

I wonder what effect this will have on the creeping theocracy we seem to be experiencing lately?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 3:10 PM on August 12, 2012


When the BSA reverses its position one day in the future, these guys are going to get an avalanche of "Friends of Scouting" donation requests.
posted by ColdChef at 3:24 PM on August 12, 2012


Names for a new movement? All American Scouts?

The superior uniforms and emphasis on nunchuk skills of the Gender-Neutral Junior Ninja Brigades of Turtle Island will result in millions of defections from the BSA.

Rarely have I seen a Tumblr this badass. I wasn't a Boy Scout, and indeed recall thinking smug, sarcastic, and mean thoughts about the two or three dudes who showed up to high school in uniform, but it's evident from those letters, with their carefully-considered moral computations and empathy that whatever communitarian and practical and fun stuff gets passed around a scout group has a good effect on people. To the extent that scouting reinforces many excellent values, it is sort of the last thing that needs some central authority, especially one that explicitly endorses oppressive, antiquated, arbitrary nastiness.

The GNJNBTI will be decentralized, consisting entirely of a repository of practical information for those wishing to start a local scout group. In the spirit of self-sufficiency and Being Prepared, there will be merit badges awarded for things like: Consensus Decision-Making, Introspection, Literacy, Media Criticism, Dumpster-Diving, Bicycle Repair, First Aid, Cooking, Open Source Software, etc. Someone start the GIJNBTI.
posted by kengraham at 3:44 PM on August 12, 2012 [14 favorites]


Fizz: I will not be returning my Eagle Scout badge.

You know, you earned it one way or the other -- but I suspect you probably won't want to wear it ever again, so why keep it?

I was a Scout, though not an Eagle. It was important to me, as a youth. But I would consider putting that uniform back on to be somewhat similar to wearing a KKK hood. It's less severe; if a KKK outfit screams "HATE!!!", a Scout uniform just says "hate". But I would never clothe myself even in lowercase hatred.
posted by Malor at 3:46 PM on August 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Second impression is more along the lines of the civil rights movement ideals - you don't fix the situation by getting off the bus.

I don't understand what you're saying, considering the Montgomery bus boycott was one of many strategies employed by civil rights activists.

Working from within has enormous value. It is not the only way to effect change, as history is happy to inform us. Civil rights marchers being firehosed off a public street cannot be said to have been working from within - and the photographs and news footage of the brutality they faced had a huge impact.

As I see it, I don't change the bigotry by refusing to participate. I break the bigotry by actually doing something proactive - taking control on a local level and doing what is right.

You have no way of knowing that the men returning these medals and writing letters are also not doing something at the local level, although it may be scouting that is unaffiliated with the BSA.

Do what works for you, as long as you're doing something, and don't accuse people who are doing something differently from doing nothing just because they're not doing what you are.
posted by rtha at 3:47 PM on August 12, 2012 [19 favorites]


I'm not sure what I found most moving about this tumblr - the integrity of the scouts who were returning their badges, and the concepts of honour, honesty, respect that scouting taught these men coming home to roost ...

OR

the sheer joy of seeing so many well-written, correctly spelled, lucid old fashioned letters! On real paper!

(I haven't read all the posts yet, I dread finding an entry like "heres ur badg bk kthbye")
posted by Catch at 4:02 PM on August 12, 2012 [12 favorites]



(I haven't read all the posts yet, I dread finding an entry like "heres ur badg bk kthbye")


I didn't find one.
posted by Mojojojo at 4:07 PM on August 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


It hasn't come up yet in the thread but I'm so happy Girl Scouts is a separate entity from Boy Scouts. As a lifetime GSA member I understand the importance and development that happens through these two programs and I am so impressed with all the men who have sent back their Eagle Awards. I am proud to be able to stand by my organization and hope a day comes soon when these men can stand by theirs. Kudos to them.
posted by raccoon409 at 4:11 PM on August 12, 2012 [6 favorites]


Leaving and starting a new organization is some "separate but equal" kinda shit to me.

I don't think anyone is advocating a gaytheist organization rather than an inclusive one.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 4:14 PM on August 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


Obviously the Scouts discriminated the same way when they participated in the Scouts and became Eagle Scouts, but now being pro-gay rights has become cool
posted by knoyers at 4:48 PM on August 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Obviously the Scouts discriminated the same way when they participated in the Scouts and became Eagle Scouts, but now being pro-gay rights has become cool

It's never too late to regret and repent of your mistakes.
posted by small_ruminant at 4:53 PM on August 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


That is to say, holding off on amends does not improve anything.
posted by small_ruminant at 4:54 PM on August 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Obviously the Scouts discriminated the same way when they participated in the Scouts and became Eagle Scouts, but now being pro-gay rights has become cool

Right, somebody who spends 10 or 12 years actively participating in the Boy Scouts is obviously pretty worried about looking cool.
posted by FelliniBlank at 4:55 PM on August 12, 2012 [27 favorites]


Obviously the Scouts discriminated the same way when they participated in the Scouts and became Eagle Scouts, but now being pro-gay rights has become cool

For a lot of these guys, gay rights has become a thing at all since they were scouts.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 4:58 PM on August 12, 2012


Obviously the Scouts discriminated the same way when they participated in the Scouts and became Eagle Scouts, but now being pro-gay rights has become cool

Yes. Thank god it has become cool. I presume that's what you meant, rather than to cynically and without evidence suggest that the motivation here is just to do something for the sake of being part of an in-crowd, rather than that society has significantly shifted toward justice to such an extent that people realize this sort of discrimination is intolerable.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 5:04 PM on August 12, 2012 [24 favorites]


Everyone knows that you get the highest power level if you go almost all the way as a Paladin, or Dark Sorcerer, but at the very last moment renounce your prior path. The Fallen Paladin or the Redeemed Chaotic Evil types always get that extra boost to their stats.

Yeah, but re-speccing your talent tree at that level can get expensive.
posted by ShutterBun at 5:07 PM on August 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Obviously the Scouts discriminated the same way when they participated in the Scouts and became Eagle Scouts, but now being pro-gay rights has become cool

It's good to know you'll avoid doing something good because someone might think you're only doing it to be cool (the horrors!).
posted by rtha at 5:16 PM on August 12, 2012


It's good to know you'll avoid doing something good because someone might think you're only doing it to be cool (the horrors!).
posted by rtha at 5:16 PM on August 12


They are making a political and symbolic statement. I wouldn't say that they are particularly helping anyone, or making a significant sacrifice for this cause. What they are doing is not bad, but it is not such a big deal or particularly worthy of acclaim in my opinion either. Why be proud to have jumped on the bandwagon?
posted by knoyers at 5:24 PM on August 12, 2012


knoyers, this "evaluating actions based mostly on popularity" that you're doing is such a caricature of hipsterism I'm awestruck.
posted by benito.strauss at 5:34 PM on August 12, 2012 [5 favorites]


Why interpret speaking out and raising awareness as "proud"? Why assume all political or symbolic statements are worthless?

Deciding that symbolic or political statements are worthless, and that something only counts if it's made at "significant sacrifice" sounds like a great rationale for sitting around with your thumb up your ass, all while casting aspersions on people who are trying to do something, even if it's not the perfect thing that you yourself are not doing.
posted by rtha at 5:36 PM on August 12, 2012 [8 favorites]


Why be proud to have jumped on the bandwagon?

Because they are showing support to LGBT people they know and love, and also for LGBT people in general.

Because they are giving up something that means something to them, not just throwing spare change into a tin, to show this support.

Because this gesture, though mostly symbolic, still involves emotional sacrifice on their part, and shows their disappointment in an organisation they once loved and participated in. I don't believe that such a public movement will not affect the BSA's reputation, or not cause concern amongst the upper levels.

As a small aside, I recently had my head shaved for a charity event called Hair for Hope, to raise funds for Singapore's Children's Cancer Foundation. More than 2500 people did the same, and many had done so for the last 10 years the event had been taking place. Was I jumping on a bandwagon? Yes. Could I just have thrown some cash at them (I did that too)? Yes. Was I attention-whoring by publicising my shaving and asking for donations? Maybe. Did I raise more money for the event than I could have afforded to donate on my own? HELL YES.

There is strength in numbers, and people may not know you're on their side unless you make it known.
posted by Alnedra at 5:39 PM on August 12, 2012 [13 favorites]


I wouldn't say that they are particularly helping anyone, or making a significant sacrifice for this cause.

Well, on the first part, you don't know the significance, as gestures like this can go a long way to shaming an organization into changing, and on the second part, as it is not your sacrifice, you don't know how significant it is.

I would suggest that it is useful to be cautious when you express cynicism or apathy when others attempt a just action.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 5:40 PM on August 12, 2012 [5 favorites]


If enough people make their own individual "personal and political statements," eventually it becomes a "movement."

Movements change policy (and minds), which changes history.

It would have been hard to ignore it when Vietnam vets started returning their ribbons to protest a war they formerly (may have) supported.

Eagle Scouts are about as "All-American" as you can get, and when they start rejecting their badges in droves, it's bound to cause the policymakers to rethink things, even if it simply comes down to money & community support.
posted by ShutterBun at 5:43 PM on August 12, 2012 [7 favorites]


> Gay or straight, sexuality, wasn't really a big deal in my troop.

Are you straight?
I know where the second question is coming from, and I know why it's asked, and I also know it's been answered already. I do want to say I wish this was the standard form of ignorance. I did Boy Scouts and Webelos (until I got kicked out) and I can say sexuality wasn't a big deal in my troop either.

Mostly because we were 10-12 years old. The idea of doing anything with another person (regardless of gender) was a pretty alien thing. I can honestly say I didn't know my sexual identity until I was years on from this. By then I respected the BSA less than toilet paper (the second serves a purpose).

I really look forward to a day when sexuality isn't a big deal in a troop. Seriously, kids that age should care more about insects and snakes than their penises.
posted by cjorgensen at 6:31 PM on August 12, 2012



They are making a political and symbolic statement. I wouldn't say that they are particularly helping anyone, or making a significant sacrifice for this cause. What they are doing is not bad, but it is not such a big deal or particularly worthy of acclaim in my opinion either. Why be proud to have jumped on the bandwagon?

Did you read any of their statements? Did you ever strive for a goal and then have to give it away on principal. Not a big deal? You don't know any Eagle Scouts.
posted by Mojojojo at 6:34 PM on August 12, 2012


Jesus, knoyers...

I don't know if you've ever been a boy scout, but it generally starts when you're about 11-years-old (or before that, if like most you'd been involved in cub scouts from age 6. The scouts themselves aren't doing the oppressing here (or, at least, not as a group or anything.) This is from the central office, which district chairmen have almost no swing at all with, let alone the kids.

But I can tell you that I made Eagle Scout in the '90s, didn't like the policy then either, as it had been instated after I was put into scouting, but in the DADT nineties, the liberal view of such things was to work from inside and know that things were going to change. That this was a good organization being backwards about this at the top levels but that we weren't seeing it at the troop level, and that this would change sooner or later once the BSA found their own asses.

Then the LDS take-over became a lot more stark, and now they've doubled-down on the stance, and so a lot of scouts who didn't like the position earlier but trusted that it would change along with the times are now saying "enough."

Myself, I've been battling it, because retrieving my eagle paraphernalia would require a trip halfway across the country, because I don't think it'll mean anything now that the BSA is controlled by LDS, who is completely heels-dug-in on gay-hating, and frankly because I don't feel like it's the organization I went through anymore. It's like the John Stamos Beach Boys or something. It might have the same name, but it's not what I grew up working with.

So I'm torn. I want to make the statement, because it is a statement I believe in deeply. I also don't want to even symbolically mail what I worked for to a bunch of bigoted assholes who don't, to me, represent the experience of it all.

I probably will anyway. I don't know.

I know it's not about hipster posturing though. I mean, WTF.
posted by Navelgazer at 6:51 PM on August 12, 2012 [16 favorites]


Why be proud to have jumped on the bandwagon joined with others in doing the right thing?

I can't imagine why.
posted by scody at 7:04 PM on August 12, 2012 [7 favorites]


Good on 'em.

I might send in my badges, not that anyone cares what a piddling First-Class Scout thinks, but still.

(I worked hard on that Totin' Chip, dammit, and I felt like digging it out just to brandish it to the last TSA agent I had to deal with...)
posted by 1f2frfbf at 7:16 PM on August 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


Obviously, all of these gentlemen earned their letter-writing merit badge.
posted by charmcityblues at 7:37 PM on August 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


caution live frogs: "As I see it, I don't change the bigotry by refusing to participate. I break the bigotry by actually doing something proactive - taking control on a local level and doing what is right."

Speaking as somebody who (obviously) was never a Boy Scout — how's that working for you? How many teenage Scouts in your area who've realized they're gay have you kept from being kicked out of BSA? How many of your local troops have you persuaded to publicly commit to defy BSA HQ if the word comes down to kick out a Scout because he kissed another boy? How many Scout Leaders in your area would feel secure marching in an LGBT Pride parade? How many trans Scout Leaders and den mothers do you have locally?

Because if the answer to questions like that is "not much; nothing really I guess; none" then you're not actually doing squat to "break the bigotry". What you are doing is continuing to lend your public support to an organization that openly discriminates against people because of their sexual orientation.
posted by Lexica at 7:53 PM on August 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


Obviously the Scouts discriminated the same way when they participated in the Scouts and became Eagle Scouts, but now being pro-gay rights has become cool

Really? The more obvious explanation is that the scouts never thought about it when they earned their eagle at age 14, 15, or 16. Then they grew up. That's what happened to me.

I was in scouts from first grade through senior year of high school. It never really crossed my mind that scouts was much more than camping, hiking, and community service. And capture the flag. Oh, and the odd D&D all-nighter at a moonlit picnic table.

No one in my troop tried to press any anti-gay stuff on us. Sure at large, organized campouts we were expected to go to one of the religious services on Sunday. But to my mind, that wasn't any different than when I visited my grandparents. Besides, there was usually a Unitarian option.

It wasn't until my last year in scouts, when I attended the national jamboree, that I realized there was a giant professional scouting industry that you never really see as a kid. The more I learned about them, the less I liked. Professional scouting, by and large has been captured by right-wing, discriminatory interests.

This raises the question of what to do about it. Sending back my badges isn't the answer for me, though it would be easier even than boycotting a certain chicken chain. I don't want to disaffiliate, I want them to change. My son is entering first grade tomorrow morning. Earlier this year, I agreed to lead the tiger den in the local cub scout pack. Round-up (AKA recruiting) begins next week. I've decided that my role is to make our local scouts feel as safe and welcomed as possible regardless of who they are or who their parents are. I am making this more explicitly clear to the local scout executive that one, I disagree with the policy, two, I will not be any part of implementing it, and three I will be working actively among the other adults in scouting to change it. I know it's imperfect. It's easy for me to stop eating chik-fil-a. This feels different. This feels like maybe I can actually do something.
posted by the christopher hundreds at 8:04 PM on August 12, 2012 [15 favorites]


On reading more of the letters on the tumblr, I have to retract part of the above. Sending back the badges and renouncing the award is definitely harder than boycotting chik-fil-a. I'm proud to stand with the guys who did it, even if they chose a different route than I'm going to take.
posted by the christopher hundreds at 8:16 PM on August 12, 2012 [7 favorites]


I find this all wonderful, terrible, and of a confident optimism I am not capable of.

Well done, former Eagle Scouts!
posted by Capt. Renault at 8:37 PM on August 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


I worked hard to earn that achievement. My parents, sister, friends, other Scouts, & Scoutmasters all helped me to earn that award. It was hard fought.

It was a lot of hard work for me to earn my Eagle. It took almost no work for the BSA to kick me out for being gay and taking a stand against their policy.

That rank represents the sum good I did as a Boy Scout up until that point. Sending it back was worth a far greater good to me than letting it sit in a drawer.

For me, holding on to that badge was holding on to the past and I am far more interested in the present struggle.
posted by munchingzombie at 10:23 PM on August 12, 2012 [10 favorites]


> The more obvious explanation is that the scouts never thought about it when they earned their eagle at age 14, 15, or 16. Then they grew up. That's what happened to me.

Well put.

And the jibes above about the "bandwagon" seem even more petty to me when I read through more of the letters -- c'mon, the world has changed a lot in 50 years, but how many 70-year-old straight men put their name out in public as taking a stance against anti-gay bigotry? That's awesome.
posted by desuetude at 10:33 PM on August 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


A Scout must be:

Trustworthy
Honest
Helpful
Friendly
Courteous
Kind
Obedient
Cheerful
Thrifty
Brave
Clean, and
Reverent

Putting aside what "reverent" might mean to different people, I call upon anyone involved in scouting to let the leadership know that the call to "obedience" in this matter comes in direct conflict with being Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, and most importantly, Brave.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:36 PM on August 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Obviously the Scouts discriminated the same way when they participated in the Scouts and became Eagle Scouts, but now being pro-gay rights has become cool

"Obviously"? What is your evidence?

When I was a scout in the 80's there was no overt discrimination and certainly nothing in the BSA charter. Read the Scout Handbook published around that time and you'll see how very inclusive they were, both racially and culturally. They were on par with the cultural norms of the time, and in some ways ahead of the curve.

The BSA's official position is terribly difficult for us eagle scouts who benefited so greatly from the experience. Sexual orientation and religion simply weren't issues - at least no more than they were issues in any other group or organization.

I have two boys who are not scouts. The local troop seems to be one of those sensible, well meaning local outposts that quietly ignore the edicts from on high. I have great respect for them, but at the same time I'd be uncomfortable seeing my sons wearing a uniform that is associated with intolerance. It was a tough decision for me, but in the end I did not encourage them to join, and I found other activities for them to pursue.
posted by esc67 at 10:56 PM on August 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm got my Eagle in 1976. I loved it for Philmont, all the friends I made (and still have) and that my older brother taught me how to build a fire and cook a meal so I could get my Tenderfoot.

I hated a lot about the BSA as well… the patriotism, religious and ceremony stuff (especially when I was in the color guard for Jerry Ford's visit to our neighborhood). Despite my problems with the organization, scouting gave me a lot of good memories, handy skills and an appreciation of Nature I might not otherwise have.

Like Navelgazer, I'm on the fence about returning my award. I worked hard to get it and I don't much feel like giving it back to what I feel is a different organization from the one I used to be in. I hate to think they would just give it to someone else.

I admire those that have returned their awards and I know it was not easy for them. I agree wholeheartedly with their position and I feel that those of us that were in scouts need to speak up and hopefully convince them to change this awful policy.

The Sam Houston Area Council headquarters has apparently erected a "Scouting Wall of Honor" where my name; along with all the other Houston area Eagle scouts, is engraved. I believe I will write them a letter to ask that they chisel that sucker off.
posted by jabo at 11:50 PM on August 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


I was a Pioneer in my native country, and we did a lot of stuff similar to what Boy and Girl Scouts do in America, but a lot of what we did was tainted by political ideology that most of us didn't care (or even want to think) about. Sometimes I see Girl Scouts selling cookies here, and I stop and talk to them about what they do and what they use their cookie money for, and I love their enthusiasm and excitement. And reminded of the fun times I had in the closest thing we had to American scouting, and the pride I had when I accomplished something special along with my friends.

I know that each of the badges that a Scout has tells a story of which he wearer can be proud. And although I don't know too much about the exact qualifications a boy needs to become an Eagle Scout, I know it's the "top" thing and requires years of work and dedication.

Except it's not the "top" thing anymore, is it? It seems to me that the top thing now is to choose to retroactively decline the honor, to acknowledge that one's personal achievements are lessened in a system where not everyone can participate, and to stand for a bigger idea, against homophobic discrimination and bigotry.

If I were an Eagle Scout with all my badges, I would feel that if I didn't send them back, I would somehow have fallen short of the true highest honor in scouting. And the saddest thing is, it's probably the easiest "badge" to earn . . . stick the old badges in an envelope and wear the new badge of honor in your heart.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 12:04 AM on August 13, 2012 [8 favorites]


The BSA is the same it's always been, jabo. The difference is society is no longer tolerating the intolerant.
posted by Malice at 12:10 AM on August 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


As iteki posted above, when Ireland is ahead of you on gay rights issues, you should realise you are screwing up somewhere.

I hope change doesn't take long in coming.
posted by knapah at 2:22 AM on August 13, 2012


As a (queer) Girl Scout Gold Award recipient, I have immense amounts of respect for what these men are doing. I am fortunately not in a position to have to weigh politics and identity with my hard-earned Scouting accomplishments, but the decision to formally renounce that status (even though it doesn't play a huge role in my life at this point) would be a significant one. I have long stood in solidarity with my queer Siblings in Scouting, and I'm glad to see many others doing the same.
posted by naturalog at 6:46 AM on August 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Wouldn't it be lovely if these Eagles would assume the mantle of mentors to a new organization, perhaps to be called simply "Scouts"?
posted by cookie-k
at 4:26 PM on August 12

This.
posted by yoga at 7:43 AM on August 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Really? The more obvious explanation is that the scouts never thought about it when they earned their eagle at age 14, 15, or 16. Then they grew up. That's what happened to me.

Yes, and some of us came out of the closet as adults.

I was a Scout, even spent three summers working Scout camps, back in the 1980s. I think near the end of the decade, bisexual people started to organize in Boston, New York, and San Francisco. Bi Any Other Name was published in '91. Support resources and activism for teen and by teens were just starting to develop, with the Harvey K. Milk School program seen as a radical thing. But all of that was another universe away from my liberal Indiana city where closets were partitioned by age and town/gown.

Personally, I was eyebrow deep in denial and internalized homophobia as a teen. Everyone I knew (and granted, I wasn't well connected) kept it quietly in the closet until they came roaring out in college. A friend in my troop tentatively asked a leading question in our tent on a cold winter campout, and I'm ashamed to say, I pushed his disclosure and my memory of it into a dark room and padlocked the door. When the "yes I am" moment hit like divine revelation, a lot of things about my adolescence made a lot more sense. (I still get a moment of fission discovering how much music of my adolescence was queer as fuck, but I was too repressed to recognize it as such at the time.)

Now, teens are not only coming out at an earlier age, they're becoming activists. That's still revolutionary to me. I may not have been an activist but mere acknowledgement of existence among my peers may have made a lot of things easier. The notion of passing judgement on adolescents still doesn't make a lot of sense to me.

Honestly, I don't know where my badge is to return it. I quietly cut my ties as an Assistant Scoutmaster in '91. But I probably could put in a letter of protest.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 8:53 AM on August 13, 2012 [6 favorites]


I wish I knew where my Star Scout badge was so I could return it too.
posted by grouse at 9:48 AM on August 13, 2012


I have a feeling this'll get buried at the bottom, but I felt like such a rebel, fucking a fellow Eagle Scout.
posted by Shasta at 12:14 PM on August 13, 2012 [14 favorites]




Pagan scouts! Loyalty, honor, and ritual bloodshed

Previously.
posted by homunculus at 4:19 PM on August 13, 2012


Among many other things, to make Eagle, you have to plan, develop and lead a community service project before your 18th birthday. So yes, it is slightly more impressive than shitting in holes.
posted by middleclasstool at 9:55 PM on August 12


But is it as much fun? :-)
posted by Decani at 12:57 PM on August 14, 2012


Well, back in the day, Leave No Trace supported the backcountry smear.
Depending on your skill level, this can be both impressive and fun!

(But not usually as impressive as getting your Eagle. Though . . . no, I have said too much.)
posted by Seamus at 1:13 PM on August 14, 2012


FYI: Cut the badge off my old shirt, will scratch the badge off the plaque at my parents' house, will dig up the medal, and send 'em all back. I know BSA won't care, but I'd rather be on the side of my family and friends than on the side of a bunch of bigots.
posted by RakDaddy at 12:23 PM on August 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


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