ALPERN AT LARGE--Perhaps the greatest (but not always the most obvious) thing about America to remember on Memorial Day is not the debates and divisions in America, but that we're allowed to have them.
And for all the debates and divisions about Scouting, we're still lucky to see Scouting's ranks respected and expanding.
Nations all over the world would love to have our political and social marches, rallies, and elections but--unlike the United States of America--no one is going to jail or being executed for their freedom of speech.
Thousands of Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Explorer Scouts, Venture Scouts, Sea Scouts, Cub Scouts, Camp Fire Girls, and other youths arrived early on a Saturday morning of Memorial Day Weekend in the West Los Angeles National Cemetery for a flag-planting ceremony that is now a hallmark of youth dedication and service of Southern California youth.
There were no screaming political activists, and there were no cynical sneering youths with violence in their hearts. There were only caring and inspired young boys and girls, and young men and women, who were there to dedicate a few hours for the memory and honor of those Americans who risked and gave everything so we could debate, discuss, and dedicate all that we hold dear.
The flag, American patriotism, and a respect for reverence of all types was the central theme of the event, as it always is...and are arguably themes that the nation's adults would do well to emulate.
My son's Eagle Scout Project was in, and inspired by, the events of the West LA National Cemetery, and his Eagle Scout Court of Honor (to be held in a few hours, even as I write this) was also dedicated to the veterans and heroes of our military--and certainly inspired by all the national historical parks he's visited during his family vacations.
Civil rights memorials, memorials dedicated both to those who fought for the creation and preservation of the United States, and memorials dedicated to those who suffered during that very same creation and preservation of the United States, were and are locations that my children--and all American youths--would do well to visit.
One interesting National Historic Landmark to visit is the Savannah, Georgia birthplace of Juliette Gordon Low, the founder of Girl Guides (which later became Girl Scouts). Juliette Gordon Low, nicknamed "Daisy", was inspired by Lord Baden Powell (founder of the Boy Scouts) to put behind a calamitous marriage and create a worldwide organization for girls.
Low reached out to all economic, cultural and ethnic subgroups to create a "girl-led" organization that today has both strengths and challenges, leading to the inclusion of girls in Boy Scouts...but as a separate and aligned group with the Boy Scouts.
Whether the name is Scouting USA or any other name, there will be no coed troops or patrols (we already have co-ed Explorer Scout and Venture Scout programs). And the question of whether Girl Scout founder Juliette Gordon Low would support or oppose inclusion of girls into a Boy Scout-like program, but separated in their own patrols and troops, is a very good one to ask.
It is impossible to whether the inclusion of girls into a Boy Scout-aligned organization is one that Juliette Gordon Low would support, but the debate is one we should all cherish. Happily, the end results are the same:
1) Girls have a choice to be in Girl Scouts, Camp Fire Girls, Venture or Explorer Scouts, or Scouting USA. Young women can choose to work their way up the ranks to Eagle Scout like any young man.
2) Boys have a choice to be in Boy Scouts, Venture or Explorer Scouts, or any other Scouting organization. Young men can choose to work their way up the ranks to Eagle Scout, or not to.
3) Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and all Scouts have the opportunities to camp, to cook, to learn, to be self-sufficient, to be patriotic, to be reverent to God, to learn how to be future good men and good women, and to be a part of the central foundations holding up a United States of America.
4) The battle for independence, for tolerance, for respect to those of all backgrounds and opinions, and for the remembrance of history as it was, is a never-ending battle that is won only by the choice to fight for it. There is no victory in that battle save for its preservation to be fought.
I've often concluded that I prefer the company of children to adults, because only children ever act their age. So inasmuch as America's children do well to learn from, and be inspired by, America's adults...it is a pleasing conclusion for us all to know that--on this Memorial Day--the United States of America, as epitomized by its Scouts, is alive and well.
(Kenneth S. Alpern, M.D. is a dermatologist who has served in clinics in Los Angeles, Orange, and Riverside Counties, and is a proud husband and father to two cherished children and a wonderful wife. He is also a Westside Village Zone Director and Board member of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Planning and Outreach Committees, and currently is Co-Chair of its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee. He was co-chair of the CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee and chaired the nonprofit Transit Coalition and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He also co-chairs the grassroots Friends of the Green Line at www.fogl.us. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Dr. Alpern.)