In the first grade, Ben met an Eagle Scout at school. He wore a tan uniform with a green sash covered in colorful badges. Ben knew immediately that he wanted to one day be an Eagle Scout too.
Ben loved the cub scouts. Everything about it. The fun activities that earned diamond shaped animal badges. Activities like writing and drawing and carving and helping people. Webelos was even better. He got to go on his first camping trip. Eventually he earned the highest badge in cub scouts. The one that singifies you are ready for the next level. The arrow of light.
The Boy Scouts was a starkly different experience for Ben. One of the troop leaders introduced himself as a Vietnam vet. It was clear just by looking at him he had a dark side. The other was a large angry man who greeted everyone with a scowl.
“You gotta be strong!” the angry man yelled at the first meeting. “I don’t want a buncha pussies in my troop!”
He made the troop clean up a delapidated building in 100 degree heat, in full uniform. “Break time!” he bellowed during the hottest part of the day. Then he served them steaming hot chocolate with a malicious grin on her face. When the scouts objected, he laughed. “Hot chocolate will cool ya faster than any cold drink,” he insisted. Ben reluctantly took a cup full. It was bitter going down.
The first camping trip was an even bigger nightmare. The leaders found any reason to harass the scouts, and reveled in opportunities to humiliate them. Ben was one of those they chose to pick on. One of them found his water bottle sitting outside the tent. As punishment, he was forced to stand at campfire before the entire troop and sing a ridiculous song: “Grey squirrel grey squirrel shake your bushy tail”. Then he had to turn around and shake his butt at the audience. The uproarious laughter made it the most embarrassing moment of his life.
Any 12 year old boy would have balked at this treatment and never returned to the scouts, but Ben could not help thinking back to the commitment he made the day he met the Eagle Scout. For six more grueling months he stayed. Six months of no advancement. Six months of endless humiliations.
Then came the big Boy Scout jamboree.
Ben and another boy were chosen to man the troop’s booth. They were told they would be relieved so that they could enjoy the jamboree, but they never were. They spent the long day cooking and selling funnel cakes. They never got to see the rest of the celebration.
Ben was exhausted when his mom came to pick him up. The fat angry troop leader saw her and made a beeline toward her. Trying to touch her. Saying suggestive things to her. Ben could tell his mother was angry. He wanted to punch the guy in the face for her, but he was only 12 years old. Instead he had to swallow his pride.
Ben did not object when his mother removed him from the scouts. And he never asked to be placed in another troop. The desire he had to be an Eagle Scout was sadly replaced by fear and shame.
Such is the power that sinister men can wield.