Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Single Most Important Rule When Deciding What To Keep

Photo by Rennett Stowe, found on Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons

Shall I keep this trophy? This memento? This whatever-it-is from my past?

Usually, deep down, we know the answer. So I encourage people to pay attention to their instincts and listen to their hearts. Do what's right for you. If you glow when you talk about a certain possession, it's probably something you want to keep. If it brings up bad memories and associations, you probably want to let it go. You don't need to keep the wedding dress from the marriage that ended bitterly. You can get rid of the yearbooks if high school was a nightmare.

But what do you do about something that was a cherished possession, representing hard-won achievement and many good memories — and then that item becomes tarnished?

I've let go of books I enjoyed when I found the author held beliefs that not only didn't mesh with mine, but left me horrified. Every time I saw those books on my bookshelf, they reminded me of the author's reprehensible positions.

But that was easy. Some Eagle Scouts have recently made much harder decisions: They've turned in their badges, medals and other Eagle Scout items because they believe the Boy Scouts of America, in "excluding individuals — both youth Scouts and parent leaders — who identify as gay or lesbian," have violated the core principles they learned during their scouting years.

A collection of letters, which can be found at Eagle Scouts Returning Our Badges, shows how difficult a decision this was for each scout who chose to return his badge.

Eric C. Tanner:
The silver eagle on my badge has been my constant companion on a chain around my neck every day for the past forty five years. I will miss it terribly, but I will not miss the organization it now represents, one that discriminates against individuals based on factors beyond their control.
Josef Fruehwald:
As proud as I am to have earned my Eagle Scout badge, I can stand prouder to have returned it.
Roger Chenard:
It is with great sadness that I, after 50 years, must take down my Eagle Scout Medal from my wall and return it to you. I cannot support an organization that does not live up to the standards it purports to teach.
Jonathan Hübner:
I have been a Scoutmaster, Assistant Scoutmaster, and merit badge instructor. My father, my two uncles, my older and younger brothers are all Eagle Scouts. I was raised on scouting. Through scouting I was taught to do my duty to God and my country, no matter what the cost. So it is without hesitation that I perform my moral obligation and rescind my rank of Eagle Scout in an act of protest against the BSA’s homosexual policy.
Andy Magee:
I take no pleasure in writing this letter, or in renouncing my membership and Eagle Scout Award. In fact it pains me to the very foundation of my being. I know, however, that my pain is insignificant compared to that of some innocent kid who only wants to better himself and his community through Scouting. A kid who is probably rejected at home, rejected at school, and rejected at church – a kid who needs scouting more than I did. And still today, he will find no solace in The Boy Scouts of America. He will be denied the benefits of brotherhood, the satisfaction of achievement, and the lifelong rewards of Scouting. He will be denied all of the things that I have gained simply because I was born a straight man, and he was not.
And the letters go on and on.

Obviously, this will not be the choice every Eagle Scout makes. It's a very personal decision. If you're an Eagle Scout, do what's right for you.


Carolyn said...

Huh! My husband and I were just discussing his turning his Eagle Scout badge in the other day. Thanks for the examples of thoughtful letters sent in with them by others.

We are in the midst of a huge pare-down with our home of 35 years due to mold contamination and my intense reaction to it. I can't even be there to help! Guidelines to keep in mind while making those many decisions are just what we need. I will likely be unable to return to the only house we've ever owned. While it will be hard to say goodbye to La Honda, where we raised our family in a beautiful place, it is pretty easy to let go of things that can't be cleaned. The trick will be figuring out what is worth the effort of very thorough cleaning, and what we are likely to have room for, wherever we end up!

Cynthia Friedlob said...

Great post, Jeri, and an interesting idea to apply ethical considerations to the uncluttering process in general.

Scott Roewer said...

As an Eagle Scout, who happens to be Gay - I'm trying to decide where I stand on this debate. I worked very hard to earn my Eagle Scout badge and nothing should or can take that effort away from me. I've written many letters to the BSA concerning their policy on gay youth/adults participation in the BSA, I've removed my name from the Eagle Scout Wall of Fame that previously toured the USA, but I've not sent back my badge (yet). I've read many of the letters on the tumbler site you mentioned and was very touched by the words, especially those from our straight allies! Thank you to everyone, Eagle Scout or not, for telling the Boy Scouts of America their policy on gay youth, and gay leadership is out of date and must change.

Jeri Dansky said...

Carolyn and Scott, I'm glad to hear from Eagle Scouts struggling with the same decision. Thanks for commenting.

Carolyn, La Honda is so beautiful - I'm so sorry to hear about your mold problems. Here's wishing you all the best, wherever the next part of your life takes you.

Cynthia, I haven't seen ethical considerations come up too often; now you've got me pondering this topic, and wondering what other examples might be.

I do remember one that a mother asked about online: What do I do with the baby bottles made with BPA? I don't think they're safe for my baby - so do I just dump them in the trash? I'd normally donate something like this, but do I donate something I feel is unsafe (but hasn't been recalled). As you might expect, the replies were varied in their advice.