"So," the questioner asked me while I was sitting at the Starbucks. I had stopped by after attending a Troop's Court of Honor -- a quarterly awards ceremony and celebration event -- and I was "Jonesing" for a cup of coffee. At this Court of Honor, beverages were not served afterward, so after I spent some time talking with some Scouts, their families, and some Scouters who wondered why was I there (because, I said, pointing to my friend and one of their fellow Assistant Scoutmasters, he invited me and here I am....), it was time for me to go find some coffee.
"What's next?" the questioner asked, sipping his coffee from a nearby table. He then asked if he could join me instead of yelling his question to me. I nodded, and the young man wearing a jean jacket took off his skull cap and did something to it (my guess is to set it in his lap) as he sat down in the chair across from me at my table.
"So you already broke your Law. You got the Gay community to give into you. You got women serving as your leaders and people like you..." and then he paused to look at the distinctive shoulder strip identifying me as a member of the Brussels-based Transatlantic Council, before he continued, "...you must be like the Uncle Tom of the Scouts or something...what's next for you people?"
I looked at the young man. He couldn't be no more than 30, I would say. Still single. If he were married, he would have thought a little bit more before he conversed with someone who could be his dad. Or granddad, depending on how old he thought I was.
I took a drink from my coffee. Oh, how I'm going to enjoy this conversation, I said to myself. I looked at him, and then I started.
"How old do you think I am?" I asked him.
"A little older than me. Probably in your late 40s."
"Try a bit closer to 60, but thanks. I've been playing or coaching this game since before you were born. I'll tell you what's next -- but I bet you don't even know what brought all of this to the program."
The man sat and listened.
"First off, it was sheer luck -- or faith -- or God's intervention, whichever you want to use -- that I am even IN this stuff. You don't know how many beatings I endured for even ASKING to be a Scout. My tail and back were whipped on almost a daily basis because I wouldn't shut up, asking to be a Scout. Finally, my mother got tired of whipping and slapping me -- or threatening me with either -- and just gave me that stare. You know the stare, right?"
"That stare -- you've had it, I'm sure you have. That stare that says "one more word outta you and I'll beat you into the middle of next week," that stare. "If you know what's good for you, you'd shut up right now or change the topic, " that stare.
"Yeah. So why were your parents mad at you for wanting to be a Boy Scout?" The man shifted a little. He was expecting a combative answer about how the BSA reacted to its public -- it's membership -- to force all of those changes he was tossing my way.
"My parents -- my mother -- was trying to protect me. It was the 60s, and Black people "got lost" or "misplaced" because they were trying to "be White" like you. My mother didn't know anything about Cub Scouts -- what I wanted to join -- and made the assumption that since there weren't Black kids around in Scouts, it was something for our people to stay the hell away from."
The man looked at me.
"Now imagine that instead of being Black, I am White, like you. Also, imagine that I'm a young man who's not so sure that he's Gay or straight, with parents who wanted to protect their child from people who would harm him for wanting something he really wanted to be a part of." I took a drink and waited to swallow before I continued.
"So you're saying that the Scouts made all of those changes for you and others. Why couldn't they just started the "Gay Scouts." Why didn't they just tell women that if they wanted to be a leader, to go join the Girl Scouts? This is just the liberal agenda forcing us away from American values."
"American values," I answered, "are common values. Not values only available to the majority. If they came up with the Black Scouts of America, people would want the group to have the same things that the Boy Scouts of America have. The same value system. The same Oath. The same Laws. The same outcomes. "
"But you're gonna have Gay Eagle Scouts now. You want to have girls to be Eagle Scouts too. It's like we have taken the United States and turned it on its head." The man looked at my Scout uniform before picking up his coffee cup and taking another drink.
"We have had Eagle Scouts who are Gay -- and at least one female Eagle Scout. Big whoop. They are Eagle Scouts, and probably back in their day, they got a little press from being the first. But they were honored more for what they did to earn Eagle than the fact that they were the "first" of anything. I was the first Black kid to earn Eagle in the Troop I started...other than a little blurb in the newspaper, there was no big deal about it. My community didn't up and rebel when I did. Kids back then still wanted to be Scouts and their parents still wanted their kids to be Scouts. All of this stuff now will come up to...what's the phrase people are using today --- a "nothingburger"?" I smiled a bit before I raised my coffee to my lips and took another sip.
Starbucks makes the best mocha coffees.
"So you don't see the world changing because of the liberal agenda? I don't know why everyone wants to change things so much...what was wrong with the way things used to be? Everyone had their place. We didn't have to worry about crime and people taking so many drugs and..." he said.
I stopped him by adding, "...we have to truck in water to towns because the water sources are so polluted nobody can drink from it. We have diseases that are coming back because nobody feels they have to be vaccinated. Can't go camping in a lot of places and where we can go camping, we can't make a fire because of the fire hazard. Yeah. The way things were. No thanks, G."
I took a drink and started to get up.
"There's a lot of cool stuff which happened because former Scouts found cures for stuff. Because former Scouts thought up, funded, and created some cool movies and TV shows to watch. And because former Scouts thought up the ideas of portable computers and phones in our hands and arms and all of that. Former Scouts also convinced this nation that everyone needed to be more equal. It took time -- but they based those ideas on what they experienced as Scouts." I took my last drink from my cup.
"I think that we're on a good glide path toward making the nation more equal. You know, like the Martin Luther King line in which he stated that everyone -- and he gave examples of contrast -- everyone would be in the same game together...making our nation a great place to live in..."
I got up and extended my hand. He shook it with his hand.
"Great discussion. What's next? I'm going to go back to my house, watch some TV, take a shower and go to bed. Maybe do some writing beforehand. Scouting made me what I am and who I am. I guess I was glad I got beat for wanting something special to me. "