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Lickspittle Boy Scout Leaders?

Medfield Boy Scouts in Nantucket, 2009

In the last two weeks, Nantucket has been roiled by one of the stupidest and most ignorant land deals of all time.  The Boy Scouts have a 100 acre camp just off Old South Road called Camp Richard.  The Camp has been hosting Boy Scout troops from up and down the East coast since 1955.  They groups come out, sleep in sleeping bags, orienteer, tie knots, go swimming, and do a hundred other Boy Scout things.  In sixty years, few people on island could even find the gate.  But the gate, and the rest of the 100 acres is on Nantucket, and that makes if very valuable.

So, since The Cape Cod And Islands Council of the Boy Scouts of America is focussed on developing young men of character, they decided to giftwrap a sweatheart deal into the hands of a developer.  The council offered thirty acres of Nantucket land for a price not seen since the Ron Reagan was dropping jelly beans on the White House floor.

The deal has the hallmarks of Doctor Evil and his finger sucking.  At its grossest level, adults who tried to finagle this deal are neither “mentally awake” nor “morally straight.”  It will line adult pockets and deny Nantucket camping to generations of boys.  At its most petty, the deal smacks of ripe stupidity; who sells thirty acres of Nantucket at a tenth of what it is worth?  It reeks of Dunkin’ Donuts Duplicity.  Boy Scoutmaster Mike Riley and The Donald Trump of Rockland D.J. Mackinnon sat down over a couple of crullers and came up with a wicked good idea.

Even if you sit on the stool next to them and order your own Mochalatta, you can’t figure out how this works.  Did they assume that nobody on conservation loving Nantucket would notice when Laurel and Stan tried to drag thirty acres through a loophole? Did they think that somehow, in August when the island is collecting checks from the nation’s top 1%, this sale would hide in the paper, somewhere near the Marine Home Center season ending sale?  Did they forget the sharp-finned realtors sniffing for blood at a huge giveaway?  Who thought this was a good idea and do they travel through Wal-Mart on a scooter?

To blame the stupidity of this situation on those two spittle sprites misses a deeper point.  The deal is comic, but the forces behind it are malicious. We can’t let these lackwits walk away with kick me signs and shoelaces tied together.  This obscenity has deeper and fouler roots.

In America, we build these cretin professionals.  You need to be a manager or an earner, with a leather chair with lumbar support in your office and a leather binder from Staples.  They measure their data, they craft their mission statements, and they collect input from the Board on neon green post-its.  You don’t measure your performance in the eyes of Scouts, or projects, or graduates.  You measure it in data.  So, Boy Scoutmaster Mike has to justify and explain why he makes $100,000 a year.  He can’t say that he tells really good ghost stories or can make bowline knots faster than anyone, he has to put his professional goals on cream paper in raised print.  He doesn’t build a ropes course or make chili, he “manages.”  So, even with a 2.7 million dollar endowment, he needs to build and “manage” it.  The Cape Cod and Islands Council doesn’t need the money to pay off some legal judgment or to buy more lanyards; they need it to fluff Scoutmaster Mike’s resume. 

Scoutmaster Mike has taken the oath and has administered it, but may never have figured out what the words mean.  None of his actions could be termed “trust worthy, brave, or loyal.”  Hard to see how selling this land is doing “his duty to God and country.”  My knowledge of modern Christianity is a little thin, but Jesus didn’t say that Atlantic Development will inherit the earth, for pennies on the dollar.  Nor can Scoutmaster Mike’s disappearance behind the Big and Tall suits of his lawyers qualify as “brave or trustworthy”.  “Lawyer Up” hasn’t become a merit badge yet. 

Of the oaths Boy Scoutmaster Mike has besmirched, the muck on “loyalty” is particularly thick and ripe.  As members of the Boy Scouts, the Nantucket Boy Scout Leaders spent decades building up Camp Richard...for free.  They maintained and built the camp over the years, then brought other Boy Scout Troops out here.  Then, when they challenged the Dunkin’ Donuts Deal, the Boy Scouts threw them out of the organization, barred from entering and then sued for “fraud and conspiracy.”  So, years of volunteer service to young men and the camp get tossed out as “fraud.”  There was no meeting, no conversation, no campfire of the Council.  Instead, there were envelopes and lawyers.  Thank you for your service, see you in court.

Scoutmaster Mike and the lickspittles that surround him aren’t just in scouting.  You can find them skittering along the darkened rooms of musical groups, athletic teams, and 4-H clubs (they love animal husbandry).  The create these three hole punched paper mountains to scale with diarrhea and data; they sit in offices filled with binders and lit by powerpoints that illuminate the “process” and the “feedback”, but not the kids.  Scouts, musicians, athletes, and those future farmers aren’t the center of all activity, but something minor and petty like a river that flows outside the window. 

At its best, the Boy Scouts of America instills character.  Character doesn’t define itself well in the dictionary, but it can be seen much more clearly on the playing field, classroom, and at the dinner table.  For my sons, character means doing the generous and open thing in spite of the opinions of others.  I want my children to speak the truth, to help others, to work hard, and to consider what’s going to happen seven years from now.  And I want my boys to walk that walk during the populous day and the solitary night. 

So many of the former Boy Scouts I know walk with that same character.  They are doctors, lawyers, architects and builders.  They are sons, fathers, and husbands.  They stand when others will only sit; they speak when others will only mutter; they lead when others will only fade.  They show up, line up, and even get punched in the mouth. This is the character the Scouts are famous for.

And that their leaders so sorely lack.

Bob Barsanti's novel, Milestone Road, was published last summer.  His previously published book of essays about Nantucket, Sand in My Shoes, is available here.