Wednesday, January 30, 2013

What I Learned as a Boy Scout

When I was a kid, I was a Cub Scout for a couple of years. This meant that my father had to endure countless hours of nonsensical merit badge ceremonies, and partake in embarrassing uniformed scouting activities. I think he enjoyed camping, and especially building things in the garage. After all, he was a mechanical engineer, and he was probably tired of designing airplanes. Assembling pinewood derbies, a.k.a. blocks of wood with plastic wheels, was probably more stimulating for his talented mechanical mind than flight-testing commercial airplanes.

What I learned from the Cub Scouts was how to find the easiest way to fulfill the requirements of a program. I became adept at scanning through the activity badge requirements, and identifying how to earn the badges with little, or no effort. Other than that, I don't remember much of being a Cub Scout.

After I aced all the Cub Scout exams with flying colors and earned my Arrow of Light, it was time to move on to bigger and better things. And, logically the next step was to become a Boy Scout. If things went well in the Boy Scouts then... unfortunately that would be the end of the road. My shortsighted kid-brain couldn't see that far into the future, but luckily my brother jumped on the miserable wagon and we both became Boy Scouts together.

My brother and I went to school all day, while our father worked. On every Monday evening, the three of us grudgingly attended a weekly Boy Scout Troop meeting in the basement of a nearby church. The Monday meetings were unexceptional and nauseatingly boring. We essentially acted out our roles in an imaginary rank system. Our Boy Scout Troop was divided into groups, and we sat at separate tables, while the older 'leader' scouts marched us through their uninspired agendas. They talked about issues like camping, scouting principles, and sometimes they recited fabricated Native American traditions. Occasionally we did things like pick up used Christmas trees and recycle them for $25, repaint the church that held out weekly meetings (a form of rent), and go camping.

To be honest, I don't know how my father endured of all of it, unless he was secretly drunk; I doubt it, but for his sake, I hope so. I'm pretty sure that some of the other dads were alcoholics, so it goes without saying that they were probably well-sauced.

In retrospect, I came to realize that the the purpose of the Boy Scouts is to facilitate the transition from a carefree childhood into the rigid hierarchical world of adults. It was probably useful for kids who love power structures, and aspired to be corporate goons, or join the police or military. For assholes like me, I learned that I don't respect people who aspire to become authority figures, and that the Boy Scouts is basically an after school program for kids who are not athletically gifted, or who have a track record of minor offenses and have concerned parents.

The Boy Scouts is a right-wing organization, which means that they don't approve of homosexuality,  religious diversity, etc. As kids, we didn't realize that anyone else was excluded from the group, because no one told us. People who weren't like us may have joined other organizations, like the Girl Scouts, where they did equally ridiculous things like sell cookies to cover the massive administrative costs of the Girl Scouts of America. As far as diversity is concerned, like I said, we existed in a foggy bubble, oblivious to that "wooden ship called 'Diversity'" outside.

Although I am surprised, and relieved that the Boy Scouts is considering lifting their ban on gay children, this just exposes the heel-dragging process of change within an overtly right-wing conservative organization. Regardless of your personal identity, I don't recommend joining the Boy Scouts, or subjecting your children to it, unless you love conformity, and/or arguing with other parents about who will lead the automobile caravan to the next camping site. Other than that, I doubt you'll become enlightened to anything interesting, or become a more wholesome person.

I eventually earned the rank of "First Class" scout, which means I fulfilled a handful of easy, bullshit requirements. I never made it any further, because so many of the merit badges required either running, or studying; two activities that I loathe. I'm pretty sure that my brother ascended the ranks a little further than I did. I know that my father earned his Eagle Scout (before his 18th birthday), but owing to a family move, his application was postmarked just past his 18th birthday, so they screwed him out of his rank.

In my Boy Scout Troop, the dads were all miserable, and their conflicts with one another eventually spiraled them into a neverending bitchfest. The kids were bored, and looking for new ways to start fires with gasoline. Someone must have alerted us that disaster was imminent, because several of us simultaneously threw in the towel, and we found better things to do with our Mondays and weekends.

1 comment:

  1. It seems that the Boy Scouts might be chaining their position on gays in light of the FLDS changing position. So if you're gay stay away from scouts, they will probably just make you feel guilty and go into some sort of conversion therapy.