Letter To The Editor: Rebuttal To Derogatory Remark About Boy Scouts

By JIM COBBLE
White Rock

A couple of months ago, the Los Alamos Daily Post carried a story about art in Fuller Lodge (link). Included in the article was a Los Alamos County Councilor’s criticism of a picture of Ranch School Boy Scouts that, given the immorality of the Boy Scouts, was inappropriate to display. This open letter to the community is a rebuttal to this idea.

Pedophilia is a difficult issue, and until ~20 years ago, it was not taken seriously enough. Presently, I am over 70 years old. I was a youth participant in Boy Scouts from ages 9 to 18. From ages 46 to 70, I served (>23 years) as Scout Master of Troop 129 in White Rock. I was not aware that pedophilia was an issue in BSA, the Boy Scouts of America, until criminal background checks and two-deep adult leadership became required in about the year 2000.

Do a little math. Websites indicate in excess of 110 million youth have participated in the Boy Scouts. It is arguably the largest childcare organization in the world. Time magazine reports ~90,000 claims of abuse. Gracefully, this suggests that more than 999 of every 1000 scouts are/were not victims. True, perhaps many did not come forward. Also, true, not every claim may be valid. Due to the steps BSA took to prevent it, very few of the victims are now less than ~40 years old.

Big surprise, pedophilia in not just a scout problem, it’s a human problem. It occurs more frequently and in more youth venues than one can image. A cynic might suggest that more children are raped by a sibling or a cousin – or, heaven forbid by a parent – than in the scouting organization. It is interesting that the news focuses on an organization with possibly the lowest incidence of abuse among youth programs.

Who are the perpetrators in the scout organization? Most scout volunteers are the parents of the scouts.  Just guessing, but the low incidence of sex abuse within scouting may be because most volunteer parents ‘give a damn’ about their children – not a claim one would make on behalf of most abusers.

Meanwhile, who are the Boy Scouts? At every weekly meeting, they make a pledge: “On my honor I will do my best…” Included in this oath are the words, “to help other people at all times; to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.” Cheerful service to others is a good alternant way of saying that the scouts do community service.

Every Eagle Scout for the last 55 years must complete a community service project. Some of these are mind-blowing in their scope: a new paver patio for a local religious group, building a rock garden outside a community school, building a shaded shelter for parents at a county playground. The scout fathers who help with these projects, not only for their own son, but for their son’s scout brothers, are the best friends one can make in life. I’ve seen it.

One of the objectives of scouting is to make a young man self reliant, to train him how to provide for himself and others: first aid, emergency preparedness, etc., i.e., being prepared. In 2000, the state-record Cerro Grande wildfire swept into the western part of our Los Alamos County. Refugees fled their homes.  My troop reported to the Red Cross shelter (a local church in White Rock) once the fire breached the city limits.

For four days, my scouts set up cots for refugees, unloaded a food truck, directed traffic, set up a hand-painted sign on the street for the displaced hospital emergency room, and were a general, uniformed, support group for refugees, who sat watching their homes burn in living color on the television in the church sanctuary. Three of my scouts’ fathers provided emergency short-wave radio communications for the county during 16-hr days during that week, for with telephone poles burning down, the phones were not reliable. One of my scouts was manning the church phones after midnight the fourth day. He took the call to evacuate the shelter.

Being a member of this organization for over 30 years is the best thing I’ve ever done in my life. I’ve made the best friends. These fathers would march into hell for you. Things happen. We had one fatality on an outing – a fellow scout leader. We had stopped for a rest near the end of a 9-mile bushwhack in and out of canyons in Bandelier. Afterwards, the three adults asked the scouts to wait for us at the creek, a mile of so ahead and 500 ft lower. After a while, we missed one of our number and went back to check on him; he was on the ground, unresponsive. The other adult ran on after the kids. Being informed there was an emergency, they climbed out of the canyon and flagged down a car. My colleague, on his feet for 13 miles on the day, returned to the site with the search and rescue team – dehydrated, hypothermic, and exhausted. He collapsed. I was exhausted, too, not having spent the time twiddling my thumbs.

That same summer, Troop 22, the old Ranch School Troop, had a fatality, too, near the Boundary Waters Camp in Minnesota. A scout leader collapsed. The troop and its leaders were heroic. They immediately began CPR while others built a travois by lashing poles together with pine boughs between them to support the weight of the fallen man. They dragged him half mile through the swampy wilderness to a lake where a seaplane could land, all the while giving the victim CPR. Not the smoothest operation perhaps, and they too failed. But they tried. They understood what needed to be done, and they did their best.

Sometimes, being a scout can make a difference, whether one can shoot a basket or hit a baseball or not. Scouting is an organization that prepares a boy to be a man. Yes, I’ve known scout heroes. As an aside, the Los Alamo Boy Scouts have collected and stacked food in food pantries for Rae Douglas, the Christmas Lady, and LA Cares – tons of food – for more years than I can remember. Before the Postal workers became involved, the scout did it all.

I’m so proud of my scouts — now men. I had 30-something Eagles in 23 years. One of the non-Eagles is now the mid-school band director. And, he’s been into the Pecos a dozen times in 2020! Self confidence.  I’ve got a chemical engineer working for LANL. The son who lost his father is a chemistry PhD – like his dad. Another scout is a PhD nuclear scientist. His brother does drone research for a defense contractor. Both are Eagle Scouts. I’ve got an architect, a physical therapist, an army ranger, an archaeologist, and plenty of other engineers. Some of these men have sons of their own – who if attorneys have their way, won’t be able to be a Boy Scout.

Lately, PBS featured an attorney predicting the dissolution of the Boy Scout organization. He’s an ambulance chaser. You know of course that in lawsuits, the attorney fees are about a third of an award. Follow the money. This prosecution does not improve the health of our nation.  BSA has made amends for crimes long since committed. They have fixed the organization. Dissolution of BSA is punishment of the innocent at the expense of the nation and even the world.

A Boy Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.  The scouting organization exists in 167 nations around the world.

Imagine for a moment, if Kim Il Um and Donald Trump were both Eagle Scouts. Discussions about nuclear weapons might have turned out differently. Scouting is a legitimate venue for world peace.

I hope our councilor will rethink his stated impression of the immorality of the Boy Scouts of America.

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