Saturday, August 11, 2012

Transitory, every thing is:

Boy Scouts of America, take the

A para-military organization
SRN-altered bookmark once purchased at the gift shop, Holy Hill Shrine, Hubertus WI  


Eagle Scout returns medal to protest gay policy

To Robert Paxton, the Eagle Scout medal he earned 24 years ago symbolized the leadership skills and love for the outdoors he learned as a boy.
Now he sees it as a badge of shame. The Wausau man put the medal in an envelope last month and sent it to the Boy Scouts of America national executive board along with a letter condemning its policy to exclude gay Scouts and adult leaders.
"You know better, and the young men you mold know better, too," he wrote.
In mid-July, the Scouts announced after a two-year review that they were reaffirming the ban on gays. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2000 that the Boy Scouts and other private organizations have the right to set membership standards.
Paxton, 41, is not alone in his protest. Dozens of Eagle Scout medals have been sent back in disgust from around the United States. To read the letters, go to">.
I contacted Paxton, who told me he started in second grade as a Cub Scout and stayed in scouting through his senior year of high school, achieving the Eagle rank at age 17. That's a whole lot of weekly meetings, campouts, summer camps and merit badges.
"Scouting was a mixed blessing for me. Wonderful lessons were taught, but at the price of enduring years of bullying. In my troop, gay slurs were the preferred language of the bullies, whether the recipient was gay or not," he said. "Why it happened is complicated. I wasn't particularly athletic, and my interests ran toward the geek arts - AV club, yearbook photographer, gaming."
Paxton is straight and has been married 15 years. He works in information technology at an insurance company, and he is an ordained Wiccan minister through Circle Sanctuary of Barneveld, coordinating some of its seasonal celebrations and sometimes handling weddings and pastoral counseling.
In his letter to the Scouts board in Irving, Texas, he wrote, "To me, to have the BSA reaffirm this bigotry is tacit approval of that bullying, not just for me, but for all who are bullied thus to this day."
He said he also condemns the Scouts' discrimination on behalf of young gay males "who must either leave scouting or be liars."
I've never been in scouting, which is probably why I can tie only one type of knot. But I agree with Paxton that the Boy Scouts should welcome all boys, and not embrace policies that make gays feel flawed and unworthy. It's bad enough that a certain chicken restaurant chain is sending that message.
You know who won't be sending back his Eagle medal in protest? Gov. Scott Walker, probably the best-known Eagle Scout in Wisconsin.
"Once an Eagle, always an Eagle," he told me last week after the opening ceremony at the Wisconsin State Fair. In his mind, the fight over the admission policy is a sensationalized, media-driven nonissue.
"I think it's one of those where it became an issue looking for a place to rest, and it just happened to be with the Scouts. This is not something that Scout leaders and Scouts themselves or parents that have kids in Scouts talk about one way or the other. It's become something more politicized at the national level," Walker said.
"The bottom line is that it's one of the strongest organizations I know of, certainly a great inspiration to me."
Deron Smith, national spokesman for the Boy Scouts, said the medals returned represent an extremely tiny fraction of the 2 million Eagle Scout badges earned since 1912.
"While a majority of our membership agrees with our policy, we fully understand no single policy will accommodate the many diverse views among our membership or society. Naturally, we're disappointed when someone decides to return a medal, but we respect their right to express an opinion in whatever manner they feel is appropriate," Smith said.
He also said Boy Scouts teaches members to respect differing opinions and it opposes the mistreatment of others based on perceived differences, including sexual orientation.
Perhaps, but slamming the door on gays hardly seems like respectful treatment.
Paxton does not expect to receive any response from the Scouts. He does hope the organization he has long admired has a change of heart.
"GLBT rights are the pre-eminent civil rights issue of our time," he said. "When the BSA chose - now when state after state and country after country are choosing equality for sexual orientation - to continue their discriminatory policy, I couldn't help but think they're choosing the wrong side of history."
Call Jim Stingl at (414) 224-2017 or email at


Cleaning the Bathroom

Cleaning the bathroom is humbling and good.

Enamel and glass feel smoother than wood

as the mind, barely thinking, goes passive. Meanwhile

the hand, gliding easily over the tile

or toilet or mirror, finds tangible peace,

in the rhythm of rubbing, a kindly release

and the patience of porcelain fixtures can drain

what's flashy or fancy in favor of plain. 

In style unpretentious, demeanor serene,

the bathroom is basic. Its function: to clean.

"Cleaning the Bathroom" by Phyllis Hoge, from Hello, House. © Fithian Press


the African violet
it is after two years at the Odd Fellows
trying to blossom just now.
Putting it in different places
it seems to like the light
beneath the skylight over

the loft stairway landing.

This plant has been co-existing with us
for going on 30 years.
It lives in a gourd shell we grew.


Olive Oyl keyring, this is good, bendable
Procure through
a good source for many trinkets


& there are

many street crumb picker-uppers

all whereabouts known

They rise to a 3rd floor seeded ledge

made of 137 million-year-old limestone

once sediment itself

They are little

lost in anonymity

often rag-tag

to my cultured and foolish

and insinuating eye

Left alone

Not wearing turbans,


in possession of no threatening

creeds, they pick, peck and choose

and in such vast numbers

no one seems to pay them

any attention 

God knows.



F. Scott Fitgerald
in current New Yorker mag:
Story written in year 1936