Morally Straight?

I have a jingle going through my head that may or may not be from an old Boy Scouts ad. It went something like, “Join the Boy Scouts of America Today, and together we can form a better USA!” A manly male chorus sang it a cappella, with an echo, giving it an almost hymn-like quality. And it sounded very ancient, like it belonged to a different age (like the 1950s).

It is quite possible that this ditty appeared in the ad for another organization, and my old brain is scrambling it up again.  But in any case, it’s stuck in my head as I think about the Boy Scouts and their “new” policy on how to deal with the gay thing.

They punted on the issue of allowing openly gay members and scout leaders last year.  First they would then they wouldn’t. Now they are back to would again, but with a twist. They propose allowing openly gay scout members, boys under 18, but they would not allow adult scout leaders who are gay. Some might call this progress. I call it baffling.

It’s an odd approach because “gay” and “youth” never mix company in the mouths of the gay-averse. To them, there are no gay children: one day, you wake up and decide BOOM! I’m going to be gay! Woo hoo! Folks do this, the theory goes, to piss off society, their friends and relatives, and basically because they are selfish human beings who lack morals. So the one unique thing about the scouts proposal is that it ipso facto acknowledges the existence of gay youth. By extension, then, the proposed policy also accepts as fact that those who are gay are born that way — but then again, in their revised Membership Standards Resolution, they include the language, “No youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone.” (Emphasis added.) So perhaps the BSA is not demonstrating as much enlightenment as hoped for.

And indeed they are not. Because, as stated, the new policy will continue to exclude gay adults. Gay men, and presumably lesbians, too, will still not be permitted to work with or for the Boy Scouts in any way. So it’s cool if you’re gay as a kid, but once you’re an adult it’s tough luck. This sends out a myriad of problematic messages.

It pays homage to that old saw that one will eventually grow out of being gay. It’s just a phase. Let the boy have his fun. He’ll soon grow out of it. Uh, no.

It cowers to the old ghost that gay men are sexual deviants who can’t wait to molest and have sexual relations with underaged boys. Thus, gay men can’t be trusted with children. Uh, wrong. Inappropriate sexual contact is not limited to any gender, sex, or sexual orientation, including no sexual orientation. The Catholic Church, one of the Boy Scout’s biggest bolsters, should know about that.

It disses its own alums. So lets say that you were a successful scout as a boy. You became an Eagle Scout and all that. These are the sort of folks the Boy Scouts normally depend on to help steer their younger members. But all that gets washed away if the successful scout is gay.  Great! Cool! You did all the right things and mastered all the right skills! Now get out. Uh, wrong. That’s a terrible message to send to anyone, child or adult. We can use you for so long, but then you have to go? Really?

Long-time gar spot readers may recall my word for something that is overly complicated for the sake of avoiding something viewed as undesirable, even if that undesirable thing is much simpler.  The word is ptolemaic, after the Ptolemiac model of the solar system which placed the Earth at the center of everything and had all the other bodies — the moon, planets, and even the sun — orbit it. For a long time, many in Europe viewed having the Earth as the center of the universe as crucial. Never mind that the model failed to account for observed planetary motions. Rather than adopt the simple, though undesired view, that the Earth moves around the sun and not the other way around, the Ptolemaic model became more and more elaborate. And preposterous. No physics in the universe could explain the circles it posited the planets took in their journeys through space. Yet, this model held sway for centuries because the “other” view, a sun-centerd solar system, was so feared or hated.

The Boy Scouts, in trying to please those who would rather not allow gays at all, while also trying to avoid charges of anti-gay bigotry, have crafted a new policy that serves as a perfect archetype for ptolemaic. Rather than reach the apparently undesired conclusion that it should not discriminate at all on the basis of sexual orientation, the organization has proposed an illogical, indefensible, harmful, overly complicated policy that ultimately solves nothing. You can’t more ptolemaic than that.

Anti-gay bigotry lends itself to such illogic. The marriage equality debate is rife with it. So was the Don’t-Ask-Don’t-Tell debate. The Girl Scouts of America has not discriminated on the basis of sexual orientation for years. The world did not end when this happened. However, as the Advocate pointed out in an article from late last year, the Boy Scouts of America receives a great deal of their support and sponsorship from Catholic and Mormon churches.  BSA also, by the way, discriminates against those with no faith at all — all members must swear allegiance to God.

If the Catholic and Mormon churches changed their moral objections to homosexuality, then the issue would potentially vanish overnight for the Boy Scouts. Sadly, that’s not likely to happen any time soon. So the Boy Scouts have a choice.  They can either continue to contort themselves into more and more complicated policies in a vain attempt to modernize yet still maintain their “traditional values”; or they can just modernize, join the right side of history, and move on.

© 2013, gar. All rights reserved.

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