A Scout Is…

One thing I have prided myself on throughout my life is the fact that I, alongside both of my younger brothers and in the footsteps of my father and grandfather, earned my Eagle Scout Award while in the Boy Scouts of America.  Twice, and only twice, have I had cause to regret my participation.  The first was over the BSA’s terrible handling of transgender scouts, and the second was just this week–when Donald Trump spoke at the 2017 National Jamboree in front of tens of thousands of Boy Scouts, and they chanted like he was a rock star.

I have two issues with this.  The first is a personal bias; I am politically opposite to Trump, and so I hate to see any organization I have supported stand behind this idiot of a man.  And I can admit that bias.  Could Trump have appeared at the Jamboree without me raising my voice?  Probably, had he avoided his Hitler Youth-esque charade.

The second issue is the more important one.  Boy Scouts are not supposed to be political. We are supposed to serve our country, regardless of who is in charge of it.  While in uniform, we are not to stand in front of one person, chanting their name, and place them above the country we love.  The Jamboree is a national gathering, a place for Scouts from all walks of life to come together and celebrate their shared interests.  It’s not a place to blindly follow one moronic “leader” into oblivion. That’s not what Scouting is about.  And I hope, I really hope, that the BSA can admit that they made a mistake and work to resolve this.

To help them with this, I’ve prepared a little guide for the BSA.  It may be a little familiar, though with recent events I have to wonder.

A Scout is Trustworthy

As a Boy Scout, I was taught to always tell the truth, even when–no, especially when— it was most difficult to do so.  Truth and trust are the foundation of good communication, whether it be with family, with church, or with the nation.  Without trust, without truth, a person or organization is left shouting into the wind.

Trump is an individual who engenders neither truth nor trust.  Almost everything that he says is, on some level, untrue, or designed to manipulate.  Despite speaking out against career politicians with his cries of “Drain the swamp!” and “Lock her up!”, Trump is just a continuation of the same dirty Washington business that we have always seen.  While it is his presidential right to appear and speak at the Jamboree, Scouts should not be supporting this hypocrite.

A Scout is Loyal

As I mentioned in my opening, Scouts are taught to be apolitical in uniform.  Our loyalty is to the country, not to the parties that govern the country.  Yes, we are taught to be good citizens, to do our civic duties by voting and participating in our community.  But when we are in uniform–that is, when we are in the role of a Boy Scout–we put aside our political leanings and band together for the greater good. Trump openly mocked this concept by giving a fired-up political speech to a group of teenagers.  He is pandering, and to a very wrong audience at that.

A Scout is Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, and Cheerful

Yes, I realize I’ve gone a little out of order, but this quintet of concepts go hand-in-hand with one another.  They teach a Scout how to treat other human beings–with kindness, acceptance, and understanding.  Scouts come in all shapes and sizes, with all manner of differences, whether in lifestyle choices, religion, or even in their families, and we are taught to treat one another with respect.

Trump demonstrates not one of these attributes.  He is, at best, remarkably silent when minority rights are trampled, and at worst, openly disrespectful of those he disagrees with.  His speech to the Scouts gathered at the Summit shows this clearly when he called Obama’s absence at the previous Jamborees to everyone’s attention.  First, it’s another of his little half-truths–Obama, a president who actually did things while in office and thus was very busy, did appear before the 2010 Jamboree through a pre-recorded video.  Additionally, Trump is only the eighth president to speak at the Jamboree since it began in 1937.

Secondly, regardless of the truth in his words, that is neither the time nor the place to be bashing a former political opponent.  Again, Scouts are an apolitical organization.  Trump is actively eroding these core values of the Boy Scouts of America.

A Scout is Obedient

Being obedient goes beyond just listening to Scout leaders and following directions.  This was actually a tenet I questioned while I was working on my Life Award (the penultimate rank in Scouting)–why, if we are being taught to be leaders, should we make an oath to be obedient.  My father, who at the time was our Troop master, explained that, for one, there would always be someone higher up the food chain, regardless of where I was in life, and I would need to be obedient to those individuals.  More importantly, though, he explained that a good leader is good because they listen to those they lead, and are obedient to them.  It’s what separates a boss from a leader.

I’m sure this is getting predictable at this point, but Trump does not understand the concept of obedience in any way, shape, or form.  He does not adhere to international policies that the US has agreed to (see: the Paris Agreements, NATO, literally anything that involves any countries other than America) and bullies those who disagree with him.  He does not listen to his advisers and lieutenants, and yet leaves everything to be done by someone else.

A Scout is Thrifty

The man wants to build a wall that will cost taxpayers tens of billions of dollars and racks up vacation spending bills left and right.  Need I say more?

A Scout is Brave

Bravery has a wide range of meanings, as we’re shown in Scouts.  It isn’t always as simple as standing up to a bully or facing our fears.  Sometimes it is a deeper sort of courage.  Sometimes we have to stand up for what is right in the face of what is easy.  A handful of Boy Scouts were the perfect example of this within the last few years, standing up to the BSA–the very organization that had taught us this trait–when the BSA actively discriminated against transgender youth.  And in the end, it was the brave who won.

Trump is a coward, plain and simple.  He acts brave by talking a big talk, saying that he will clear Washington of career politicians, that he will force companies to bring jobs back to America, or any of his “telling it like it is” lies, and yet, when he’s faced with actual consequences, he doubles back, lies, or does the exact opposite of what he says he will do.  BSA, is this the sort of man you want tomorrow’s leaders to be emulating?

A Scout is Clean and Reverent

I think this is the perfect opportunity to segue in another part of the Boy Scout doctrine–the Scout Oath:

On my honor, I will do my best;

To do my duty to God and my country, and to obey the Scout Law;

To help other people at all times;

To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.

Morally straight.  Donald Trump has no morals.  He claims to be a Christian, and yet, does not portray one truly Christian quality.  He is a man who does what he wants, when he wants, how he wants, and damned be the consequences.  This is the man who bragged about grabbing women by their genitals, who mocked a disabled reporter on live television, and who verbally attacked the parents of a soldier who gave his life to defend this country.  This is a man who has barred “the poor, the tired, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free”, who has now banned transgender people from serving in the military.  Those are not the actions of a person that tens of thousands of today’s youth should be following, nor are they the actions of a true Christian.  They are the actions of a career sociopath, and have no place in the ideology of the Boy Scouts.

Do A Good Turn Daily

And here you thought I was done after the Scout Law!  But the Scout Motto is every bit as important.  We as Scouts are challenged to do a good turn daily, no matter how big or small the deed is.  So to that end, I issue the following challenges for today’s “good turns”:

To the Boy Scouts of America administration:

Do not stand idly by and allow Donald Trump’s image to ruin everything the Scouts have worked for over the past 107 years.  Issue a statement apologizing for this weekend’s debacle, and distance the organization from this megalomaniac.

To my fellow Boy Scouts:

Continue to demonstrate the qualities of the Law, the Oath, and the Motto, and let them guide your actions.  Do not let Donald Trump or his actions besmirch what we truly believe in.

Hold the BSA’s feet to the fire.  It needs to continue to grow as an organization, and can only do so with the support of good people.

Finally, to my fellow Eagles, remember: we are never done learning and growing.  Educate yourselves, learn, and pay attention.  We were taught to be leaders, and never have we needed leaders more than now.


Coming To America

This weekend has been a tumultuous one with Trump issuing his most controversial executive order yet–a ban on immigrants from Muslim-majority countries. And his timing couldn’t have been more inappropriate, as it appeared on the International Holocaust Remembrance Day, a day that we as one people–not just as one country–remember the atrocities of the Nazi regime against those they found to be “inferior”. There was an immediate outcry from the public and the media–and rightly so! Trump’s latest executive order is, in fact, illegal, based on a law called the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965. In a nutshell, the law disallows the banning of immigrants based on their national origin.

To me, however, the worst of this situation isn’t that Trump has (once again) moved illegally within his first one hundred days as president.  It isn’t that he is dividing the country. It isn’t that protests are forming as we speak to show immigrants to America that we are still a safe haven for them.

The worst is the total lack of empathy from an administration that claims to be working to restore faith to America–and if we’re being candid, let us admit that this only applies to the Christian faith.  No one should kid themselves that the GOP has any intention of giving Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, or any other of the hundreds of world religions the same sort of political clout that Christianity has in America.

And yet, Trump’s actions stand in direct contradiction to those of whom Christianity was founded on–Christ.  When Jesus walked the earth, he gave us only two edicts: We are to love God with all of our heart, soul, and mind, and we are to love our neighbours as ourselves.  Nowhere in that does he say that “neighbour” only applies to fellow Christian, fellow whites, fellow men, or fellow rich people.  In fact, through more than one parable does Jesus explain that our neighbours especially include those that typically exist outside of what we consider familiar or comfortable. If you don’t believe me, read Luke 10, verses 25 through 37, and Matthew 15, verses 21 through 28. These are the stories of the Good Samaritan and the Faith of the Canaanite Woman, respectively.

I could go on and on, citing verse after verse that tells us, as Christians, to welcome and accept guests–even strangers–into our homes.

“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” Hebrews 13:2

“In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all.” Colossians 3:11

“Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.” Romans 13:8

“Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of my brethren you did it to me.” Matthew 25:40

There is no gray area here, no lack of clarity.  If we are to live in Christ’s image and do as we have been commanded, we are ordered by Christ to take these strangers (immigrants) into our home (America) and treat them with love, kindness, and peace.

If you side with Trump in this, you have an essential choice of faith to make.  On one side, you can continue to side with Trump and give up the pretense of being Christian.  If he and his administration continue to keep those fleeing war, famine, and persecution from entering our country, they are doing the work of the enemy.

On the other hand, you can do what Christ has asked us to do as Christian, and love our neighbours as we love ourselves; in other words, to give them the same freedom and opportunity that we have had, regardless of their faith, their skin colour, their sexual orientation, or any differing factor.

Again I will point out that in giving us the Golden Rule, Jesus did not specify to us that our neighbours only included the select few we choose to interact with.  A neighbour to a Christian is any fellow human being. And we are to do right by them. If we don’t, how can we call ourselves Christians any longer?