Friday, August 17, 2012

My Letter to the Boy Scouts of America

BSA National Executive Board,

    My name is Mario Reinaldo Machado, Eagle Scout, Order of the Arrow member, and former Assistant Senior Patrol Leader from Troop 29 in Cetronia, Pennsylvania. I am currently serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in the country of Paraguay. My work involves agricultural extenstion as well as general development among a rural community of impoverished families in the second poorest country in all of South America.
    On a daily basis, I find myself using the skills I learned in scouting. Living next to families who are existing far below the poverty line, and with the means of only a paltry stipend from Peace Corps, my lifestyle here in Paraguay is sometimes comparable to a 2-year long camping trip: bathing in frigid buckets of water, using a latrine, walking many kilometers to accomplish simple tasks, constantly battling the elements, and sleeping each night in a sleeping bag with a mosquito net draped over my body. On a very tangible level, I have used my scouting experience in many ways: to lash together all the homemade bamboo furniture which now occupies my small brick hovel, to appreciate and understand the natural world around me (especially as it is so important to those poor farmers with whom I live and work), to grow food in my garden and to show others how to do the same, to take care of myself medically as I cut parasites out of my feet and treat any number of other tropical ailments that may arise, just to name a few.
    On a more personal level, I am here in the first place because of the amazing upbringing and influences that I had growing up, a large part of which was scouting. Over the 13 years that I was a continuous scout, I was not only imbued with the technical skills that have helped me to survive out here as a Peace Corps volunteer, but also with strong and dedicated moral principles which have guided both my life and the work that I have to undertaken to help people in spite of personal hardship.
    Scouting taught me to serve my country, which I am doing by spending 2 years away from family, friends and all comforts and familiarity to serve as a goodwill ambassador to another nation. Scouting taught me to be kind and cheerful, with which I have gained confidence and camaraderie in a community where only a few months ago I was a complete stranger; the same community in which I struggle to speak the indigenous language and yet, am now accepted as a neighbor and friend. Scouting taught me to be thrifty, which has helped me to endure the challenges of living below the poverty line and to be resourceful in any and every way possible. Scouting taught me to be brave, to be a leader, and even as I have found myself tested to greater limits than I could have ever imagined, I continue my work out of bravery and a dedication to make this world a better place.
    Surely, these are the kind of ethics we would hope to instill in all scouts--to serve their community, their country, and their fellow man. For those true Boy Scouts, the experience of scouting does not end with the presentation of the Eagle Scout award, but instead truly begins at that moment, that they may become greater members of our society and our world through their experiences in Scouting. This is the Boy Scouts I have grown to believe in, an idea that I hold as being one of the most guiding and influential in my life. Still, it pains me to say, but no son of mine will ever become a Boy Scout.
    Given the recent decisions of the Boy Scouts of America as it pertains to openly homosexual scouts and leaders, specifically in regards to the reiteration of such decisions on June 14th, I can no longer support such an organization. That bastion for personal growth which has provided me with so many tangible benefits no longer stands for what it may claim. By excluding homosexuals from Boy Scouting, the organization is committing an act so blatantly un-Scout-like that I find it utterly impossible to rationalize. The only thing less respectable and less dignified than bigotry is hypocritical bigotry, and the fact that these homophobic attitudes are in direct violation of the ethics of scouting places the BSA organization in the latter category.
    These actions are cowardly. They do not serve this organization, these communities, this country or this world. They simply perpetuate the hate and prejudices that cripple our society through fear and misunderstanding. I am saddened and personally hurt by these decisions as it causes me to question the lessons I have taken away from my scouting experience. I feel betrayed by the Boy Scouts of America; this is not only an attack on those homosexual members and prospective members, but also an attack on all those who have taken an ethic from scouting which screams in defiance of this injustice.
    Personally, I feel as though scouting helped me to become a better person. It helped guide me from the boy that I was to become the man that I am. As an organization, as a community of scouts, why would we ever choose to deny this experience, this benefit to anyone? Why would the BSA choose to limit the good that it can do in this world by actively discriminating against any group? The reason is fear, cloaked in a dialogue of ignorant logic and hypocrisy. This is not brave, this is wholly irreverent and unjust.
    Once again, we find ourselves in a world where those very people whom we might look to as leaders cave under the pressure of immorality and intolerance. The BSA has lost the opportunity to be a leader among men, a leader whom, while possibly ridiculed by those full of a prejudicial opposition, has in fact risen above the tide to actually become a model Scout within itself. What an amazing example this could have been? What a statement the BSA could have made by accepting all people regardless of sexual orientation?
    Until the day that the Boy Scouts of America chooses to change such bigoted policies and allows homosexual leaders and scouts to enter their ranks as equals, I will no longer count myself among that ‘proud’ group of Eagle Scouts. My experiences will stand for themselves and I will continue to be a good scout even as the organization of Boy Scouting itself fails to do so. I am returning my Eagle Scout medal in the sincere hope that it will one day be returned to me--on the day when ALL scouts are welcomed, accepted and nurtured under the principles for which scouting claims to stand. May you strive to find the courage, the decency and the love within yourselves to open your hearts and minds to all scouts and all people. May you seek to do the greatest good, to “help other people at all times”, and become better servants to our country and our world.


With hope from halfway across the globe,
Mario Reinaldo Machado

3 comments:

  1. You have so much of my respect right now.

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  2. I was really happy to read this, much respect Mario for standing up for what is right.

    On a side note, I wish you the best of luck across the globe. It's been a long time and i'm glad to see you are doing well

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