Politics & Policy

Banning Squirt-Gun Fights Should Earn the Boy Scouts a Nanny-State Merit Badge

I was only a Cub Scout. I’m not sure I made it past Webelos, which was a Scout in larval form. You had the uniform and the kerchief and a thick manual with a strange cover made of some pseudo-leather that could not rip and that repelled water. It contained lessons about knots and citizenship. If you studied everything you could guide old ladies across the street, then help them make a fire with sticks and stones while identifying bird tracks. Old ladies loved that sort of thing.

As fun as it must have been, the only thing I remember is gluing macaroni letters to a piece of wood to make a plaque for Mom. Whatever homily we made was due to lose a few letters on the way back from the Den, so it’s possible I presented Mom with something that said “ome Is here the Hear Is.” You’d think that attaching pasta pieces to wood to spell out anodyne maxims isn’t real Scout work, but hey: You could razor off those letters, boil them up, and make a small meal if you were lost in the woods. At the very least, it would hold you over while signaling planes overhead using the foil from a cigarette pack to reflect light! Also, don’t smoke. Also, don’t litter. Also, Don’​t Get Lost. Scouts don’t lose their way.

Large organizations do, though. Here’s CBS News:

A summer rite of passage in the dog days of summer won’t be available to Boy Scouts at their camps or other activities because the group recently announced a ban on the use of water guns for anything other than target practice and a limit on water balloons.

“Water guns and rubber band guns must only be used to shoot at targets, and eye protection must be worn,” reads page 99 of the 2015 Boy Scout handbook.

This is a marked break from my youth, when the Fourth of July meant you might possibly get a bottle rocket in the face and end up with an eye patch, which would be awesome. “Eye protection” in those days meant your hands over your face.

The new rule for water balloons dictates their size and origin — no more puffed up balls of latex for traditional water balloon fights.

“For water balloons, use small, biodegradable balloons, and fill them no larger than a ping pong ball,” page 100 of the handbook adds.

Demerits if they’re not biodegradable, one assumes. The Scout will be forced to stand on parade in the hot sun while the troop leader rips off his Sustainability merit badge as the other Scouts turn their back on him. Why this new rule? As CBS reported, it was “explained by Bryan Wendell, an Eagle Scout, who is senior editor of ‘Boys’ Life,’ ‘Scouting’ and ‘Eagles’ Call’ magazines.

A Scouter once told me this explanation I liked quite a bit: “A Scout is kind. What part of pointing a firearm [simulated or otherwise] at someone is kind?”

There you go. I suppose that rules out paintball games, unless they define the term to mean daubing small round things with nail polish and hanging them on strings to make mobiles. Brighten up your campsite with some kinetic art! And I suppose it rules out a future career in the military, since a large part of raining hellfire down upon gibbering rapey head-choppers could be considered unkind.

The sight of a purple plastic simulated firearm could be traumatic and trigger memories of your older brother dousing you with the hose.

Obviously this rule change is not about being wet. You can still throw small water balloons at fellow Scouts, assuming you don’t fill them up with high-pressure squirt guns — the sight of a purple plastic simulated firearm could be traumatic and trigger memories of your older brother dousing you with the hose. If this is the case, proceed to a Safe Space Tent, where your counselor will give you a cup of sun-brewed tea and apply a calming poultice of camomile.

No, it’s about being nice. By the way, apropos of nothing, how many men set policy for the Girl Scouts? Just curious. Back to the story:

Fully in support of the rules is the Michigan Crossroads Council of Boy Scouts of America, which serves more than 68,000 youth statewide.

“Our mission is to prepare young people for life and part of that duty is to ensure our youth become civically-minded adults,” said Michigan Crossroads Marketing and Communications director Kerrie Mitchell. “Pointing a simulated firearm at another individual is not aligned with our Scout Oath nor Scout Law.”

She added: “We can understand some may feel this ban is extreme but preparing young people for life starts in a child’s most impressionable years. We are committed to our mission here statewide, locally, and nationally.”

Oh, the yards of twaddle these people can roll out. Well, insert boilerplate moaning about the feminization of male institutions, here. Insert rote moaning about the wussified youth who cannot distinguish between what’s real and what’s simulated, here. Add some hyperventilating huff-and-puff about another institution co-opted by flutter-hand worrywarts who think that letting kids play with squirt guns breeds sociopathy, here. All this might be sad if it were new, but instead it’s sad because it’s not.

In my impressionable years, my cousin shot me in the butt with a BB gun, and he’d pumped that thing up so much he could fire a feather through a battleship. This prepared me for life in very important ways: I learned not to turn my back on my cousin when he was toting the Daisy, for one thing, but it also reminded me of my father’s lessons never to point those things at people. Ever. Nevertheless, I pointed cap guns at peers — even though it was more fun to just unfurl the ammunition rolls and hit them with a hammer — and I had great summer fun with the cheap water pistols you got at the Ben Franklin store. The ones where the cap that sealed the barrel always fell out and leaked water in your shorts, so you looked incontinent. It was fun. It was summer.

It wasn’t a matter of being a kind person. It was a matter of being a kid person.

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