Scouts’ (dis)honor

Jam­boree no place for pol­i­tics

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - VOICES - CHARLES T. CROW Charles T. Crow lives in Lit­tle Rock.

Fore­most among the in­flu­en­tial ex­pe­ri­ences of my for­ma­tive life as a youth was my par­tic­i­pa­tion as a Boy Scout.

Wher­ever we lived, I was a Scout. I started as a Cub Scout, and be­longed to three dif­fer­ent Boy Scout troops. I filled my sash with merit badges of ev­ery kind, went to Scout camp ev­ery sum­mer, was ini­ti­ated into the Or­der of the Ar­row, and at­tained the rank of Life Scout be­fore our troop dis­banded. I was later an Ex­plorer Scout and Ju­nior As­sis­tant Scout­mas­ter.

I loved scout­ing. It chal­lenged me phys­i­cally and men­tally, and spoke to my deep in­ter­est in be­ing out­doors and in na­ture. It opened my mind to learn­ing things I would never have known had I not been en­cour­aged to try them. Scout­ing shaped my life. I learned about help­ing others.

Un­der­ly­ing it all were the ground­ing prin­ci­ples cap­tured in 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.

The Scout Law, which I can still re­cite from mem­ory, calls for a Scout to be: Trust­wor­thy, Loyal, Help­ful, Friendly, Cour­te­ous, Kind, Obe­di­ent, Cheer­ful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, and Rev­er­ent.

When Pres­i­dent Don­ald J. Trump ad­dressed the Scouts’ Jam­boree on July 25, he ripped his britches by turn­ing his chance to set a high ex­am­ple of states­man­ship into a sleazy par­ti­san po­lit­i­cal stump speech that de­meaned the of­fice he holds.

For 80 years, ev­ery U.S. pres­i­dent has paid trib­ute to scout­ing. They have ac­knowl­edged the Scouts’ con­tri­bu­tion to civic re­spon­si­bil­ity and the life val­ues that build ci­ti­zens and lead­ers. But Trump squan­dered the op­por­tu­nity by mak­ing it all about him (sur­prise!) and took cheap shots at his pre­de­ces­sor while pan­der­ing to his young au­di­ence.

Trump’s shrill, ag­gres­sive bom­bast hear­kened back to dis­turb­ing mem­o­rable scenes of throng­ing brown-shirted Ger­man mobs of Hitler­ju­gend spew­ing “Sieg, Heil!”

The Scouts are not po­lit­i­cal. They do not take par­ti­san po­lit­i­cal po­si­tions. In­stead they stress en­gage­ment by in­di­vid­ual Scouts in civic af­fairs, vol­un­tary ser­vice and ac­tive in­volve­ment in gov­ern­ment at ev­ery level, re­gard­less of party. The holder of the high­est elected of­fice in the land should set an ex­am­ple of thought­ful and chal­leng­ing rhetoric that in­vites as­pir­ing young men to be the very best they can be and to serve their com­mu­nity to the best of their abil­i­ties.

Does the man have a mod­icum of pro­pri­ety? Does he have any sense of what is ap­pro­pri­ate? It ap­pears that he does not. To have a pres­i­dent of the United States brazenly brush aside the long-stand­ing Scouts’ tra­di­tion that such an ad­dress is non­po­lit­i­cal is a crass ges­ture of dis­re­spect, and deeply dis­ap­point­ing.

His be­hav­ior in­di­cates he thinks it is al­ways about him. But it most cer­tainly is not, es­pe­cially at such oc­ca­sions.

One thing is clear: Had Trump been a Scout, he would have been ex­posed to eth­i­cal be­hav­ior that mod­els re­spect for others, and (per­haps) might have fol­lowed the Scout Oath and Scout Law in­stead of mor­ph­ing into a self-cen­tered, pre­var­i­cat­ing, mean-spir­ited wheeler-dealer.

Through­out their lives, men who were Scouts have re­tained a moral com­pass and sense of ser­vice fos­tered by scout­ing that con­tin­ues to serve them well. Scouts learn early that they must serve and be self­less, and to model proper cour­tesy as an ex­am­ple to others.

With this tainted and skewed out­burst, Trump has of­fended un­told num­bers of for­mer Scouts to the core by twist­ing the Scouts’ in­vi­ta­tion into a politi­cized love-fest for him­self. In so do­ing, he dis­hon­ored the Scouts and him­self.

Shame on you, Sir.

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