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Sunday, July 19, 2015

GOP candidates: still poll-testing how much discrimination they can sell


Think Progress reported today:

"Meet the Press’ Chuck Todd asked Perry, who served as the governor of Texas from 2000 – 2015, whether his views on openly gay scout leaders had changed since 2008, when he wrote that “openly active gays, particularly advocates, present a problem. Because gay activism is central to their lives, it would unavoidably be a topic of conversation within a Scout troop. This would distract from the mission of Scouting; character building, not sex education.” 

"Perry said he still stood by that statement."

Having spent thirty years in Scouting, from a Cub pack to Eagle Scout to Explorer post advisor- I can look Governor Perry eye to eye to unpack this nonsense.

For one thing, I'm one of the handful of readers who bought and got to the end of, his 2008 book, On My Honor: Why the American Values of the Boy Scouts Are Worth Fighting For. It's an odd book- really two in one. The good one is Perry's memoir of growing up in rural Texas in the late 1950s; I remember a similar world- and world view, from starting in Scouting in North Carolina a few years later.

The other book Perry shoehorned into his work is a political tract in which he totted up the score against his- and, naturally, America's- enemies. They are the usual suspects. Like most who share his views, and age, Perry wanted to stop the clock at the America of his childhood, and roll everything back to how it was then.

He still does. And so did the Boy Scouts. Since the 1970s, every year their numbers fell, they seemed to double down on their vision of America as  a fixed, never-changing Norman Rockwell cover from Boys' Life. They spent 25 years flogging gay Scouts and leaders through the courts while fighting to keep their pedophilia files secret, in 1971 they launched anti-drug campaign Scouts and leaders alike thought made no sense (I was one of the hapless trainers for it, before it was quietly shelved a year or so later). They fought cities and states to retain their privileged access to public facilities and taxpayer support while demanding the right to discriminate as they pleased.

Now they are trying to salvage a tarnished brand while the Perrys of Scouting roast them and threaten to leave, or defy new policies. Meantime, the Girl Scouts have, without fanfare, adapted over time to the realities of life, and enjoy  enormous respect and relevance.

Perry's double-down response to Chuck Todd today illustrates the tone-deafness of those who believe nothing should ever be done for the first time, and certainly not after 1959.

What are "openly active gays," anyway? Doubtless Frank Luntz would approve the louche implication of bolting those words together, but what do they mean in fact? Perry won't say.

And what of this clanger? "Because gay activism is central to their lives, it would unavoidably be a topic of conversation within a Scout troop." Poor Governor Perry. He was long aged out of Scouting before "gay activism" existed anywhere. He was 40, and running for Texas agriculture committee under Karl Rove's management, before it became an issue in Scouting. He probably, truly, believes, in his heart, gay Scout leaders just can't can't help bringing up being openly active gays every other breath at Scout meetings. In his book, he wrote that gay Scouts are incapable of living up to the precepts of Scouting, and compared being gay to being alcoholic. To do so, of course, means that gay Scouts must join to subvert the movement, and ruin its value to all, just because they can't stop jabbering about being openly active gays.

If, however, one edits his sentence slightly, to read, "Because religious activism is central to their lives, it would unavoidably be a topic of conversation within a Scout troop. This would distract from the mission of Scouting; character building, not a seminary education," would he also agree? That sort of thing I saw plenty of over three decades.

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