Jack Zaleski, Published May 25 2013
Zaleski: Gay Boy Scouts? So what else is new?
I was an Eagle Scout. Correction: I am an Eagle Scout. Once an Eagle, always an Eagle. The skills, values and camaraderie of Scouting have served me well though my entire life, although I might not have lived up to Scouting’s high standards all the time. Who could? But if I had it to do over again, I’d join again and work my way up the ladder to Eagle Scout.
My troop was sponsored by Slater Road School, a public elementary in New Britain, Conn. The troop’s leaders were mostly World War II era dads. We Scouts were young baby boomers, now all looking at retirement. Among the membership were a couple of kids who were, well, different. “Effeminate” was the polite word. There were other terms not quite so polite (learned, I might add, from the Greatest Generation). But the fact is most of us straight kids didn’t know what we were talking about. Heck, we thought “straight” had to do with lines and compass skills. The word “gay” did not have the meaning it does today.
In practical, everyday activities at troop meetings, jamborees and two-week summer camps, the presence among us of two (or more?) homosexual Scouts had no effect on anyone, ever. It was not “them” and “us.” All of us were Scouts on the same rigorous path to earning merit badges and attaining rank. We worked together, camped together, swam and hiked together and attended Courts of Honor together. Our parents were friends and neighbors, often members of the same churches or co-workers in the factories.
The goal then as now was to honor the values of Scouting, meet its mental and physical challenges, and work toward the ultimate prize, the Eagle medal and ribbon.
As far as I remember, one of those “different” guys went up the ranks to Eagle with me and at least one other friend. It was a great achievement for the three of us, having started in the program as Cubs years before. Our proud parents attended the awards ceremony in the small auditorium of Slater Road School. I still have the photo.
OK, I get it. The world of 2013 is not the same as the world of the 1960s. Sentiments and sensibilities have changed for all sorts of reasons, some legitimate, some phony. And there is no question some religious organizations that sponsor troops will cut ties with Scouting because of the overt admission of gay boys, as they mask bigotry with piety.
Scouting’s values, lessons and skills are universal for all boys. But only boys who are uniquely motivated take up the challenge and carry it all the way to Eagle Scout. It’s always been that way for any boy willing to do the work.
Gay Scouts? No, just Scouts. No big deal.
Contact Editorial Page Editor Jack Zaleski at (701) 241-5521.