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.