Divided America, or Boys & Girls Not Together

by A. Jay Adler on March 6, 2012
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What is there really to work out in the current American divides – which is to ask, what really can be worked out? If you are a politician, an office seeker, hopefulness and the rhetoric that summons a people movingly to common purpose is the lingua franca of your own success. It takes a certain quality of salesman, even for God.

“We may reason on to our heart’s content, the fog won’t lift.”

Samuel Becket never ran for office.

The “two Americas” of the poor and the rest, or more starkly, of the 1% and the 99 – that’s almost quaintly easy in comparison, a functional problem susceptible to political and economic engineering. Politicians, friends, are made for that.

But for the social divide, the civil dysfunction, the moral estrangement?

I fairly mocked those who at George W. Bush’s ascension spoke of fleeing the country. But for my love for the country itself – the land and a certain history (and a vast amount not) – and the very great idea of it, when even the idea itself is misrepresented and maligned by those I despise, who despise me and my America, why would I care to live in the nation of Santorum or Gingrich, or of those who mourn Andrew Breitbart? There is any number of liberal democracies, well enough founded, in the world – where nothing is guaranteed, whatever the American illusion – and despite clear flaws of their own, that I would find more congenial than the United States of Santorum. Citizens of the U.S.S. surely find many a fault in the places I might go, but, then, they think even my America a fallen state. Why would they think any European, Asian, or South American country something other than the devil’s or a despot’s den on earth? It seems they do.

Well, I here express the divide, in myself, don’t I, and do not just consider it. Because from engaging the debate over contraception – and the Catholic Church’s latest effort, after centuries of despoiling the social sphere under cover of God’s goodness – to witnessing the latest of Rush Limbaugh’s long-rewarded crudities, to his remarkable defenders, and then wading for a time in the swamp of Atlas Shrugs

Obama calls her and tells Sandra Slut Fluke that her parents should be so proud of her.
He’s a pimp.

….

Rush is right! Not only is she a slut, she is shameless!

….

may her clit be sliced to the root..

I land upon the Boy and Girl Scouts of America. If you, like me, have little tarried among them since you made nothing more than Second Class Scout or the like, it may have been a surprise when Indiana House Representative Bob Morris rang the alarm that the Girl Scouts are

“a group that has been subverted in the name of liberal progressive politics” with “surprisingly radical policies” – and, in fact, “a tactical arm of Planned Parenthood.”

Kate Tuttle tells us,

Meanwhile, the Boy Scouts have their critics on the left. Objections to the Boy Scouts mostly focus on the group’s 1991 ban on gay members or leaders (which is unique to the Boy Scouts USA – their Canadian and European counterparts have no such policy).… When the BSA faced a series of embarrassing revelations in 2010 about child sexual abuse by scoutmasters, many drew parallels with the Catholic Church, another male-led, gay-unfriendly hierarchy that sheltered pedophiles. The BSA is churchlike in another way: the group expressly prohibits membership (even as Cub Scouts) of atheists and agnostics. Local Boy Scout troops and councils that have tried (or been forced) to follow anti-discrimination policies have been banned or ejected from the national organization.

In truth, while the two organizations were founded with similar purposes, history has enormously widened the ideological gulf between them. The Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts share a founding father: Robert Baden-Powell, credited with inventing the worldwide scouting movement.

….

Aided considerably by Norman Rockwell, who inked covers for its Boys’ Life magazine beginning in 1913 and illustrated its annual calendar for over 50 years, the Boy Scouts quickly came to represent a kind of all-American ideal of health, outdoor exploration, and patriotic goodness. It also served as a pipeline to leadership in a country still ruled mostly by men….  Structurally, the BSA tends to wrap itself around existing power structures – so that, for instance, scout troops are chartered by community organizations, most frequently churches. Today, the largest single partner of the BSA is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

In contrast,

The Girl Scouts were founded in 1912 … by Juliette Gordon Low of Savannah, Georgia, after she met Baden-Powell in England (and renamed a year later). Up until the 1950s, most Girl Scout troops were segregated (as the Boy Scouts were), but an early push toward integration led Martin Luther King Jr. to deem the organization “a force for desegregation” in 1956. Increasingly, Girl Scout policies emphasized social justice (including the formation of special troops to serve girls living in poverty, serving time in detention centers, or at risk for domestic violence). In 1993, when a prospective scout refused to vow to “love God” as stated in the Girl Scout promise, the national organization issued a ruling that any scout could substitute whatever words fit her individual belief system. … It’s perhaps obvious by this point that the Mormon Church does not support the Girl Scouts as it does the Boy Scouts.

In Eisenhower’s America, the Boy Scouts and Girls Scouts of America were American wholesomeness itself. Or so they were sold to be, and appeared to be to the children who became their members, and the trusting parents who gave their children up to them for hours a week in the hope of rewarding experience and a character to be shaped. Like so much else in that dream of America, we learn from Tuttle, the organizations were not even then what they appeared to be, and are today – who would ever have imagined it, in those days the Santorums think an Eden lost? – even themselves split along that deep divide.

One considers, too – to think of even deeper, more structural divides – is it any wonder that an organization established to cultivate male virtues, as even so many men would have them now,  would align with and enforce, in so many ways, “existing power structures”? Is it any wonder that an organization founded and led by women and aimed, even before that vocabulary existed, at empowering young females, would espouse beliefs and enact values that challenge, in that very empowerment, those old and male power structures? Just think again about how it is a male Catholic hierarchy for whom it is a matter of “conscience” that women in its employ have their ease of reproductive control limited.

Maybe we will reach a legislative or judicial end to this dispute. That’s the stuff of political compromise. And maybe we won’t. So often these days even the political arrangements exist only to be undone in some future fight.

But tell me that the different Americas that split along even the divide of boys and girls, and what their scouting represents, can ever be a single America in anything but a politician’s pitch, this year’s model under banners on a Labor Day car lot, polished to a fantasy.

AJA

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