Being a Boy Scout was never cool, but I look back on my Scouting days with gratitude. It was good to go camping with friends and learn to paddle a canoe. In fact, I learned a lot of little skills that could someday come in handy, like first aid, basket weaving, and wood carving.
As a grown up, I’ve had issues with some of the Scouting lessons, like uncritical obedience, and I’ve been disappointed when Scouting’s leadership has been intolerant of minorities. But I’ve always valued the core lessons of integrity, decency, and caring for others.
And so I was dismayed when Trump addressed the Boy Scouts at the annual national jamboree. The surprise was not the content, since his once shocking dishonesty, ignorance, and vulgarity are now depressingly familiar. Rather, it’s hard to see how any responsible adult would think it appropriate to put Trump in front of Scouts. Trump is the anti-Scout, with a lifetime record of the exact opposite of Scouting ideals — not trustworthy, not loyal, not helpful, not kind, etc.
It looked like Trump had a good time giving the campaign-type speech. Perhaps his handlers and the Scouts viewed the performance as less likely to do harm than letting him sit around tweeting out attacks on the press and unexpected major policy changes. Maybe in the aftermath some Scouts and others will examine more deeply Scouting values, and their relation to political life.
Bravery of the heroic sort is not something one sees often in ordinary life, but it does exist. I was reminded of this when we saw Dunkirk this weekend. The movie was stunning. It managed to communicate some of the terror of warfare, like the possibility of dying at any moment from bombing and artillery, and the reality of death. But there were inspiring moments, like the bravery of the small boat crews and the fighter pilots. When the last fighter plane ran out of gas, I got a little misty.