Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Post #88: Is Tolerance for Intolerance Waning?

You might have heard the recent news story about Ryan Andresen, the (adorable) Moraga, California eagle scout candidate who was refused his award because he is gay.

Ryan entered boy scouts at the tender age of six, and his dream has been to earn his eagle scout designation. He worked diligently toward this goal for nearly 12 years, completing all of the rigorous requirements and paperwork. His eagle scout service project was to organize and work with students to create a 288-tile "Tolerance Wall" to raise awareness about bullying and the need to treat each other with dignity and respect.

Ryan's scout leader knew that he was gay and seemed to be supportive, implying that they could get around the BSA anti-gay policy, which is not strictly adhered to by all troops. (Note that this policy was recently reviewed and reinstated, which caused many organizations like United Way to discontinue their financial support of BSA).

When Ryan submitted his final paperwork, however, the scout leader denied his application, on the grounds that he is gay. It was also argued that Ryan didn't comply with the "Duty to God" clause, which his parents say is false---that he does believe in a higher power, but calls himself agnostic because he hasn't yet worked out the details of his spiritual life.

Needless to say, Ryan was shocked and devastated by what happened, and his very supportive mom began a petition, which attracted the support of people all over the world (see Boy Scout Petition). Within a few days, over 366,000 people signed this, and eagle scouts all over the country started turning in their medals--- either to the BSA in protest, or gifting them to Ryan (whose very supportive dad had to take out a post office box to receive all the medals that people were pledging!)

The story also caught the attention of the local and national media and Ellen DeGeneres, who invited Ryan to appear on her talk show, Ellen, this Thursday at 4:00 (pacific time) on NBC.

For me, the bottom line is that it's 2012 and this country is no longer a place where homophobia is nurtured and indulged. The BSA is a private organization that is entitled to set its own rules, but we are no longer a society that just rolls our eyes at bigotry. This is not to say that bigotry and intolerance are not still rampant here, because they are, but in 2012 we give a damn!

I am not a political person, but even I had to spring into action---not out of anger, but out of support for a fellow human being who deserves to be treated with respect, and honored for his accomplishments and good intentions. I say, "Well done, Ryan, and well done, you hundreds of thousands of people who stood up for him." This represents huge progress.