National Jamboree 2017 – Day 2 Reflections
Reflections about SFE @ Jamboree, 7/20/2017
Day 2 of 10 – Justin Wilson
We have successfully completed another day at the 2017 BSA National Jamboree! Each day we’re offering a short reflection on the day, sharing some of our experiences from interacting with Scouts and Scouters. If you haven’t seen it yet, make sure to check out yesterday’s post by Eric Busse.
We arrived at our booth shortly after 8 am, and things got busy very quickly. Over the course of the morning we handed out over 100 pairs of sunglasses to Scouts, adult leaders, and Jamboree staff who were excited about growing diversity in the BSA. As lunch drew near, we ran low on our self-imposed daily limit of sunglasses (need to save more for tomorrow!) and began experiencing slower, more intentional conversations with participants. Some of these conversations will live on in my memory forever.
Shortly after lunch, a group of young Scouts walked up and asked about our Inclusive Scouting Award. I explained to them that the rainbow half of the square knot shows that we seek a more welcoming environment for LGBTQ+ people in Scouting. They all nodded in agreement. Then I explained that the purple and silver half of it represents our belief that the BSA should drop its ban on atheists and agnostics. I looked up, and this entire group of Scouts was staring at one of their friends on the end, who had an absolutely priceless look on his face. It was something in between shock, surprise, incredulity, horror, and amazement. I laughed a little bit, and said “so I guess you didn’t know about that policy, huh?” He laughed and said no, he didn’t. I reassured him his secret was safe with me. Needless to say, they all took an ISA badge.
A while later, I was speaking to some Scouts about the beliefs of the United Church of Christ and the Unitarian Universalist Association, and how those values aligned with the goals of Scouts for Equality. One Scout who appeared to be about 14 years old asked whether those inclusive values meant that we supported bringing girls into the BSA. I told him yes, we definitely support giving units the option of dropping gender restrictions. He gave me a look of suspicion, and asked what would happen if any “funny business” happened on campouts between Scouts of the opposite sex. As I explained the ways that we could deal with those situations, he didn’t appear convinced. At this point, I made it clear that he could hold any opinion he wanted on the issue – he did not have to agree with us. This was clearly a relief to him, as he quickly affirmed his belief in a single-sex program.
Finally, closer to the end of the day, I was speaking with several Scouts from Texas. They were all interested in the inclusion of LGBTQ+ people in the BSA, and were at our booth for quite some time asking questions about the UCC, the UUA, and our shared beliefs. At some point I shared with them that I identify as a liberal, which is why I support the liberal values of these organizations. They acted as if they had found a needle in a haystack – a liberal with whom they could have an open conversation! They expressed genuine interest in hearing more about my opinions on some of the heavy hitters, from things like gun control to the role of the federal government in our country. They seemed a little surprised when, after sharing my opinions, I listened intently while they shared more about their pride in being labeled conservatives.
All of these conversations completely reaffirmed our purpose in being here. We didn’t come to Jamboree with the goal of pushing our beliefs onto anyone. We came here to simply exist in a space. A community that is supposed to be a safe place for everyone to feel welcome, but which for some reason has drifted away from that over the past several decades. Scouting should be one of the few places where people from all backgrounds, all religious beliefs, and all walks of life can come together for a common purpose – to celebrate their differences and learn from one another. Today, that goal was accomplished.
“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”
~ James Baldwin