National Jamboree 2017 – Day 10 Reflections
Reflections about SFE @ Jamboree, 7/28/2017
Day 10 of 10 – Jasper Davidoff
As a staff writer for the 2017 National Jamboree communications team, I was afforded the opportunity to hike all around the Summit Bechtel Reserve and, consequently, to be exposed to the many different perspectives and personalities brought to West Virginia from all across the nation. I watched and listened to scenes all around the jamboree. Unfortunately, I saw a fair amount of the hostile environment that Scouting events can sometimes create . I heard my fill of hostility and mean jokes. I observed the lack of courtesy and respect- to each other, to staff members, and to the environment – that growing Scouts often struggle with. I took in a good share of comments that made me cringe internally and sometimes externally, especially when Scouts dealt with exposure to ideas and beliefs that were not their own.
My visits to the booth staffed by my friends from Scouts for Equality, the UCC, and the UUA were always breaths of fresh air. Arriving as a visitor, I always gained the sense that this was an environment of amity, learning, and compassion. I’d watch Scouts be welcomed by a staff member into the “A Scout Is Friendly Café” and realize that they were, in fact, truly welcome in the space, then independently strike up a conversation with one of the staffers or curiously swoop into whichever group circle talk was going on at the time. I heard Scouts bring up meaningful questions and explore new ideas. I listened to the booth’s facilitators unapologetically explain that the UUA, UCC, and SFE were present here, in the world and in Scouting, to spread the imperatives of a universal call to justice and human dignity.
I’ve come to realize that, among the omnipresent sense of evangelism surrounding the Duty to God and Country Tent, having these organizations present and engage Scouts about what faith-based practical morality really means was exactly what needed to be here. Further, this particular environment was exactly what needed to be here. The booth was so clearly a safe place for courageous conversation that it actually occurred frequently and spontaneously. I was amazed at the vulnerable questions Scouts were willing to ask and admissions they were willing to make.
While I wouldn’t imply the whole of jamboree was terrible and unwelcoming by any means, I’ll say that the BSA needs to learn how to build spaces like this one. It was loving and joyful and inclusive and I’m glad and grateful it was there. I can only imagine what a true Rainbow Cafe – which I have faith is coming to the BSA in the future – would have been like.
“Those who say it can’t be done are usually interrupted by others doing it.” ― James Baldwin