(You can read the original post about the boy scout issue, here)
I don’t normally react in writing to comments on my posts except to say, “thanks” when people say nice things. There’s a long explanation for that involving the difference between blogging and writing and getting a MA in Lit in the early 1990s when Reader Response was out of favor, but that’s a whole different conversation.
I’m very grateful for all the feedback I’ve gotten on my post about our family’s debate over whether or not to let our son become a Cub Scout. People have left comments on the blog, on my Facebook page, my Twitter and on the Facebook pages of friends who have reposted the blog.
I am extremely gratified to know that I am not alone in struggling with this issue. Very few people treated this as a black and white, easy to answer question. One of the few people who did present it as an easy answer is also the person I know who most consistently and bravely lives his values. It’s part of why I love him, and part of why he’s my son’s godfather.
I’m also pleased as punch that for the most part, my friends and my friends of friends are all capable of discussing a contentious emotional issue online without being nasty.
It might interest you to know that the gay men I’ve heard from have been on all sides of the question. Urging me to allow my son to join, saying it’s ok either way and saying that he shouldn’t join. The former scouts I heard from (gay, straight, atheist, Jewish, and Christian) were all universally in favor of my son joining the Cub Scouts. They all brought up the point that the quality and character of a scout troop had everything to do with the local leadership and nothing to do with the national organization.
These comments, and the comments of others have made clear to me that I did not do a good enough job of explaining that this difference between local troops and the national organization is really the root of my problem. It is not, as one person claimed, as simple as boycotting Chic-Fil-A because of their policies. It is more like not being Catholic because of the policies of the Vatican.
The Vatican is a gigantic multinational organization that openly and loudly discriminates against people. But, that does not mean that local Catholic Churches are bad, or that you should not be Catholic because you find the beliefs of the Vatican problematic. We accept that the local Church and the individual practice is different from what the Vatican says. We respect those people who remain part of the Catholic church while working against its policies.
I myself gave birth to both of my babies in a Catholic hospital, even though I know that the same hospital has risked the health of other women by making them jump through hoops to get ectopic pregnancies terminated. I live in a major metropolitan area with many non-Catholic hospital options. No one ever suggested that as a feminist I should choose a different, non-Catholic hospital. No one suggested that I was complicit in furthering these policies by using and giving my money to a Catholic hospital.
All of us make these imperfect financial and social decisions. One person may decide that Wal Mart’s union policies make them a no-no while ignoring similar policies at Whole Foods or ignoring the knowledge that Target supported Michelle Bachman’s campaign. My parents believed in boycotting certain products, but gave a ton of time and money to a synagogue that not only was part of a movement that discriminated against women and gays, but discriminated itself.
My parents did not work within Conservative Judaism or their synagogue to bring about the eventual changes, yet these changes happened (women ordained in 1983, gays in 2006). My parents paid their dues, sent their children to school and camp and hoped for the best because they thought the positive outweighed the negative.
Although I’d hate to have to explain bigotry and hatred to my son, I can do that. But I’m really not sure how to explain why he has to forgo hanging out with his friends because they are in a good group that is affiliated with a problematic national organization. I am not sure how to explain that THIS is where I choose to draw a line. There are so many other lines I have not drawn, how do I choose this one place where he is the only one who suffers?
So, we’ve decided … We need to do more thinking and more research.
We need to research the relationship between our local troop and the national organization. Am I fooling myself in believing that we can join one without really giving support to the other? We’ve already discovered that in 2001 troops associated with Oak Park grade schools were denied their charter because of their refusal to discriminate. Our school has a troop, so maybe there’s some sort of work around that someone else has already figured out.
We’ve discovered that there is an all-male Indian Guides group in a fairly nearby suburb and have contacted our local YMCA to see if they might be willing to start one here (yes, I know, racially insensitive but I’m doing the best I can).
We probably won’t make a final decision until we have to do so. Again, I truly and sincerely appreciate the feedback. Perhaps it’s a mark of the quality of everyone’s thoughts that instead of helping me make a decision, the feedback has just made the decision harder!