The Boy Scout Challenge

Dear Mr. de los Santos,

I accept the challenge – made in your recent editorial in the San Antonio Express News – to help the Boy Scouts of America accomplish incredible things for young people and the communities we serve.

Indeed, I have looked through your list of merit badges and believe I can be of service to you in more ways than one.

  • I rescued and now care for five dogs, (don’t ask), making me the perfect person to help a young scout receive his Dog Care Merit Badge.
  • I own my own business, whereupon I work with nonprofit organizations on capacity building, increasing their ability to effectively serve more people, so I can certainly help answer questions and offer guidance for an Entrepreneurship Merit Badge, and may even be able to help a scout tackle your Citizenship in the Community Merit Badge.
  • I have been on stage since the age of five and spent four years teaching young children and teens the art of theater, so I kind of have some expertise for the Theater Merit Badge.

These are just a few, but I didn’t want to lose out on the Humility Merit Badge. (I don’t think there is one, but there should be.)

gay badgeHere’s the problem: I can’t actually accept your challenge, Sir. I can’t help the Boy Scouts of America help “young people grow into good, strong citizens” because your organization has a policy banning me – an “avowed and open homosexual” – from participating in your organization.

To believe that this conversation about gay rights – rather human rights – takes our focus away from our nation’s children and what is in their best interest shows how out of touch the Boy Scouts of America Corporation is from our nation’s current narrative. It is difficult for me to understand, then, how your organization is able to help young people grow at all.

When you reduce the conversation to one that is about doing what is best for our nation’s youth, then I ask you to be prepared to answer questions about your organization’s disservice to the very population it purports to represent.

Every day that you uphold your discriminatory and simpleminded policies is yet another day that your organization shows your scouts that it is acceptable practice to blindly discriminate against a sector of society based on misinformation and a lack of understanding. This does not do what is best for our nation’s children.

Every day that you proclaim to be an organization that provides youth “programs of character development and values-based leadership training,” while upholding a policy that asks for the “open” and “avowed” homosexuals to stand down, is a day that you show that lying about who you are is better than being open and accepting about who you are. This does not do what is best for our nation’s children.

To teach discrimination and a lack of acceptance doesn’t bring up good, strong citizens, but rather a group of young men who are close-minded, lack diverse life experiences, and, quite frankly, miss out on meeting some amazing individuals that can teach them incredible things about the world.

Your organization is currently at the center of a nationwide debate – not because of your work with young people, but because of its discriminatory policies and its unwillingness to see them as such.

Please don’t reduce this conversation to an Either/Or Proposition – either you’re concerned with the best interest of children or you want to talk gay rights. As a good, strong citizen, I believe this is a Yes/And Proposition. I am both concerned with the best interest of children and believe that means they need to understand human dignity.

So, I offer you a challenge of my own: I challenge you and the Boy Scouts of America to rethink your concept of “good and strong citizens.”

I argue that in an effort to be both good and strong, we should know that there are people who are “different” and good at the same time. I argue to be good and strong, we should learn from people and embrace diversity. A good, strong citizen questions antiquated policies and learns from, then rectifies, mistakes.

Let’s lead by example – a good, strong example – and truly help accomplish incredible things for young people and the communities we serve.

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Meetings. Shoes. Newtown.

I hate meetings. It’s not news. Everyone I know knows that.

A meeting is typically an opportunity to waste my time. We’ll talk about nothing. We’ll leave with nothing. There will be no action steps.

But we’ll identify problems and “dialogue” about them.

And that is where my brain went directly following the horrific shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.

newtown-newtitle

Here we go, again. We, as a country, are gonna have another meeting. Quite frankly, we’ve been in the same meeting since Columbine.

We’ll “dialogue” about gun control and mental health and about the glorification of the shooter. We’ll ask things like, “How can this happen?” “Where have we gone wrong?” “What can we do to stop this?”

The right will yell at the left for trying to “take away their guns.” The left will yell at the right for “being crazed gun lovers.”

The 2nd Amendment will be bandied about as though we’re all Constitutional Law professors. We’ll regurgitate the same arguments.

So, I say this with the most love I can muster: fuck your dialogue and fuck your political meeting.

There comes a moment when we have to move from problem identification to problem solution.

In 1999, after Columbine, we identified problems – video games, violence in movies, bullying, and accessibility to guns.

In 2007, after Virginia Tech, we identified problems – a history of unanswered disciplinary issues, mental illness, and accessibility to guns.

In 2009, after Fort Hood, we identified problems – mental illness, “terrorist sympathies,” and accessibility to guns.

Early this year, after Aurora, CO, we identified problems – violence in movies, mental illness, and accessibility to guns.

And now, after Newtown, CT, we are identifying problems – autism and accessibility to guns.

This is a short list. Here’s a timeline of mass shootings in the United States since Columbine.

Each time, we identified the problems. And each time, accessibility to guns is acknowledged.

***Disclaimer: I realize this is a simplistic argument. I know I’m leaving out legitimate arguments about mental health. I don’t care. I’m done “talking” – I want legitimate solutions.***

Now, let’s shift attention to Richard Reid. Remember that guy? He showed up on a plane in 2001 with a bomb in his shoe. Know what happened? You do if you’ve been to an airport since then. We take off our shoes, and they’re scanned. It’s a pain in the ass; I grumble every single time. But here’s where it’s ok for me…we identified a problem – shoes can now be made into bombs – and then we solved it – OK, everybody, take off your shoes.

Let’s call this shoe control.

Where was the outrage of the footwear lobbyists? You can’t control my shoes! You’ll have to pry my chucks out of my cold, dead hands!

Oh…there was no outrage: A) Because shoe lobbyists don’t have NRA money; and B) Because if a shoe can be made into a bomb, why not just make everybody take off their shoes?!?

So, I ask you, “Why? Why the hell are we still having this same ‘meeting’?”

Accessibility to guns is a problem – it’s been identified each and every time a mass shooting takes place. When Liviu Librescu was shot, we lamented the gun use. When Jessica Ghawi was shot, we bemoaned the gun use. When Olivia Engel was shot, we protested the gun use.

And yet, we can’t get everyone to just take off their shoes.

If accessibility to guns is the problem, then let’s make them less accessible. I’m not going to come pry it out of your cold, dead hands – that’s silly. You’re not gonna shoot me if you’re dead and it’s just in your hand. I want them while you’re still alive. I want them when you could snap. You know, after legally buying one, and spending time at the shooting range, then realizing you’ve got nothing left to live for, so why not take a few people out with you – that’s when I want your gun.

The meeting is wrapping up, and I’ll end it the way I end every meeting I run…with the following question: “What is the action step?”

Seems to me it’s to get everyone to take off their shoes, but I’m not a lawmaker. Hell, I’m not even a gun owner.

So, gun peeps – and you know who you are – stop telling me you have a 2nd Amendment right. No. Seriously. I get it. Help us fix this problem, you law abiding gun collector/enthusiast/hunter.

Stop the “meeting.” The “dialogue” is over. Take off your shoes.