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Home > Culture and Society

Boy Scout Freakout!

5 August 2005

On July 25th, the first day of the 2005 National Scout Jamboree, four Alaskan scout leaders were killed in a freak electrical accident when the pole of the tent they were erecting came into contact with an overhead electrical cable. Well, maybe not so much a freak electrical accident as a freakishly stupid oversight. We just didn't want to sound callous. But really, these were 'long-time scouters' apparently, who had been putting up tents since they were knee-high to a gopher. Still, they only had a 7.000-acre field to play with and accidents do happen.

Happily, the rest of the 30,000 scouts who had turned up to celebrate American scouting were determined to get on and make the best of what promised to be a great weekend, culminating in an address by President George Bush himself. It's what the dead guys would have wanted. Sadly, as they waited in 90 heat for the President to do his thing, 300 more of them were struck down with heat stroke. Many were hospitalised.

But never fear. Bush was there to inspire them. 'It's a fantastic sight to look out on more than 30,000 young men wearing the uniform of the Boy Scouts,' he leered. Bush loves scouts. He was a scout himself. And look at where it got him. Dick Cheney was a scout too. So was Donald Rumsfeld. Saddam Hussein however, was not a scout. Need we say more?

'You are growing up in an historic time,' Bush continued, 'when freedom is on the march and America is proud to lead the armies of liberation.' Proud words backed up with sound advice: 'When you get back home there are a few lessons you might keep in mind. The first one is one you've probably heard before, and it's one of the most valuable lessons I've learned - listen to your
mother.' And when ostensibly the world's most influential man tells you to listen to your mother, you'd better listen to your Goddamn mother. We don't care if your mother is Rose West, you give her the respect she deserves. Furthermore: 'Always remember where you come from and what you believe. At times, you may come across people who say that moral truth is relative, or call a religious faith a comforting allusion. They may question the values you learn in scouting. But remember, lives of purpose are constructed on the conviction there is right and there is wrong, and we can know the difference.'

Awe-inspiring stuff. Indeed, in the words of one faithful Boy Scout, Joe Maltsberger: '[Bush's address] was awesome. It was awesome. It was us and about 75,000 other people but it was still very very awesome and he had a really good message about scouting that was very appropriate.' And when it was all over, the scouts went back to their American homes, proud future leaders all, struck with awe and assured that their president, and indeed their God, loves them dearly.

But wait. What's this? A headline from a Utah news-site on Wednesday, three days after Bush's awesome address, nine days after the tragic electrocution: 'Utah Boy Scout Killed By Lightning: Another Tragedy Hits Organisation.' Bet the poor little devil wasn't prepared for that. Seems that God is at best ambivalent.

Comment on this article: letters@thefridaything.co.uk

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