Jamboree Travesty

“I don’t blame the Boy Scouts for President Donald Trump’s bizarre speech at the National Jamboree in West Virginia on Monday…”

The Free Press WV

I don’t blame the Boy Scouts for President Donald Trump’s bizarre speech at the National Jamboree in West Virginia on Monday.

The U.S. president is, after all, the honorary president of the Scouts. If he wants to speak at the National Jamboree, it would be hard to say no.

I don’t blame the boys in the audience who took the bait and booed Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama or who chanted “USA! USA!” in response to Trump’s childish cues. They’re impressionable kids.
I’m long past laying blame at the feet of the electorate. It gets us nowhere.

And, honestly, it’s hard to even blame Trump. He’s just being himself — inappropriate, unhinged, narcissistic.

But, as an Eagle Scout, I’m still disappointed at what is yet another stain on the Boy Scouts program.

After finally pulling itself from the mire of discrimination against gay Scouts and leaders, Scouting is on a path to right the ship and lure another new generation to its ranks. West Virginia’s Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve, home of the National Jamboree, is proof of that.

Throughout the past week, this paper has had numerous stories and photos showing Scouts having fun and working in our communities. We’ve also explored the economic impact that 40,000 Scouts, troop leaders and others can bring to an area.

And, unfortunately, we’ve also shown how quickly all of that can be tarnished for the benefit of one man’s ego.

Speaking to the children as if they were voters, Trump said his election was “an unbelievable tribute to you and all of the other millions and millions of people that came out and voted for ‘Make America Great Again.’ ”

He recounted the Electoral College breakdown, trying for the umpteenth time to relive the victory he claimed on that night in November. He revisited the Merry Christmas non-issue. He made false claims about the press. He made threats about the health care vote.

He basically defied most of the 12 points in the Scout Law — you know, the one that includes terms like trustworthy, loyal, friendly, courteous, kind.

But, then again, Trump has made his presidency about defying storied American institutions. The free press comes to mind.

The backlash against the Boy Scouts over Trump’s speech led the organization to put out a statement on Tuesday:

“The Boy Scouts of America is wholly nonpartisan and does not promote any one position, product, service, political candidate, or philosophy. The invitation for the sitting U.S. president to visit the National Jamboree is a long-standing tradition and is in no way an endorsement of any political party or specific policies.”
Of course, that’s not really a response, just a reiteration of the Scouts’ stance on these matters.

The response has been largely panned as not being strong enough.

I can’t say I’m surprised the Scouts wouldn’t say more. It would be a tricky move to come out and disavow some of Trump’s remarks, embarrassing their honorary president and making an enemy of the nation’s top loose cannon.

But, just for the sake of argument, what if the statement included a few more sentences:

“Furthermore, the Boy Scouts of America is first and foremost about kids, about building strong kids with a strong resolve. It is about honesty. It is about succeeding — with humility. It is about service and instilling the drive to help others. It is about encouraging our peers to rise to the challenge and offering a hand when needed. It is about civility.”
That’s the Scouting that I remember.

One man playing the fool can’t change that.


Robert J. Byers, is the executive editor of the Charleston Gazette-Mail in Charleston, West Virginia.

Pat’s Chat

The Free Press WV

The most exciting happening to me in recent weeks was on the Fourth of July!!  I love it when I get to go to Libby Ferrell’s to watch Weston’s fireworks from her deck, which gives us a wonderful view looking down on the Weston skyline and the sky-canvas for fireworks display. 

When Robin and I got the invitation to Josh and Ashley’s wedding it was a postcard that had a picture of the two of them that had the big letters “I DO BBQ”, and “save the date” etc.  That is so cute for a Country (or “I DO”) Wedding like they had.  Also I loved it that they had a table as we came in where we signed in on a painting of dark blue background with trees, etc., and we were to dip our finger in some yellow paint to add a firefly to the picture. How cute is that!  There probably are other cute things I’ve forgotten.

This particular 4th was even more special.  It is the date that Josh Ferrell and Ashley Brown chose for their wedding!  And the hour they chose was 10 o’clock a little before the fireworks were to start!  (They forgot that the fire whistle goes off just then.)  What could be a more exciting and sparkling way to start their life together as husband and wife!  The fireworks provided a fitting final touch to it all.

The Free Press WV

Royce Ferrell, the cutest part of the whole wedding, came down with a stomach virus which I am sure had nothing to do with the amazing backyard BBQ provided so fantastically by Dave and Trina Syrews.  Royce rallied, though, and was a real gentleman throughout the wedding ceremony conducted by Mary Ellen Davidson.

Libby, my daughter, and I were, along with others who didn’t venture down the the haybale couches and firepit below.  We had a good view from the deck.  The bride was beautiful and the groom was perfect.  The couple said they wanted their wedding to represent that there ARE second chances in this life.

The wedding cake was a fantastic creation of layers decorated with fruit.  All the usual BBQ food was available in abundance and even a S’mores bar.  They played cornhole.

Many family members and friends attended, even Zack though he said he’s not a friend.

Other things happened this week, but I can’t think of anything buy the Fourth-of-July wedding.  Wish you all, who know and love Libby, Josh, Royce, Ashley and others could have been there to enjoy it with us.


The Free Press WV

Trump’s Remarks To Police Violate His Oath of Office

The Free Press WV

Speaking in New York Friday, President Trump encouraged our nation’s police officers to rough up suspects in their custody. In the days since, many law enforcement leaders and groups have denounced Trump’s comments as damaging to police-community relations. Some have responded by publicly reaffirming their commitment to serve and protect the public, but what about the president’s own oath?

“When you see these thugs being thrown into the back of a paddy wagon. You see them thrown in rough. I said, ‘Please don’t be too nice’,“ Trump told the audience of officers, referring to the practice of shielding suspects’ heads when placing them in police vehicles. “Like, don’t hit their head and they’ve just killed somebody. I said, ‘You can take the hand away, okay?‘“

President Trump’s remarks encouraged officers to violate the Fourth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution, which grant individuals the right to be free from excessive force while in official custody. They also require police officers to protect those under arrest from unnecessary harm. As the Supreme Court once put it, “when the State takes a person into its custody and holds him there against his will, the Constitution imposes upon it a corresponding duty to assume some responsibility for his safety and general well-being.” And since federal law makes it a crime to willfully depriving a person of a constitutional right, he asked them to violate federal criminal law as well.

Legal issues aside, President Trump’s speech also demonstrates how little he understands the law enforcement community he claims to support. Though some officers sometimes break the law, a fundamental part of being a police officer is taking policies and legal rules seriously. This is why so many police chiefs and leaders have come out strongly against the president’s comments.

Jim Bueermann, president of the Police Foundation and a retired police chief, described the law enforcement perspective well in his response to Trump: “Police officers are professionals. Professionals who take a sworn oath to uphold the law and to protect us all…That is what separates us from evil as we follow the rule of law.”

To be sure, it would a be stretch to suggest that President Trump might be criminally liable for any acts of police violence that result from his speech. The closest offense under federal law would be criminal solicitation and such a charge requires stronger evidence that he intended officers to carry out his advice than his political speech provides. Still, in urging officers to not be “too nice” to individuals they interact with, the president broke a promise to the American people.

However many people actually watched, President Trump swore on January 20 to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” By encouraging police officers to criminally violate the Constitution, he violated that oath.

Rachel Harmon, a former federal civil rights prosecutor for the U.S. Department of Justice, is a professor at the University of Virginia School of Law and an expert on the law governing the police.

There Is Still Time, Brother

“Like many citizens for whom the daily headlines are an invitation to ponder the mental health of our political leaders…”

The Free Press WV

Like many citizens for whom the daily headlines are an invitation to ponder the mental health of our political leaders, it is hard not to wonder from time to time about the risk of slipping into yet another war to end all wars—especially when the anniversaries of Hiroshima and Nagasaki roll around, on August 6th and 9th, year after passing year.

In this context Stanley Kramer’s 1959 film, “On the Beach” is still worth a look. The screenplay was adapted from a novel of the same name by the English writer, Nevil Shute, who spent his later years in Australia, where both novel and film are set.

The plot provides a coolly understated take on the end of the world. Radioactivity from all-out nuclear war, both between the U.S.S.R. and the U.S. and the Soviets and the Chinese, has done in anyone in the Northern Hemisphere who might have survived the initial blasts and fires. Australia is still in one piece, but it is only a matter of months before the great cycles of upper atmosphere winds bring a fatal plague of radiation southward, making it game over for our species. A laconic Gregory Peck, stoically repressing his knowledge that his wife and children had been long since annihilated in the initial nuclear exchange, plays a submarine captain whose vessel survived by being underwater. He takes his loyal crew on a futile exploratory voyage from Melbourne across to the California coast, both to test the intensity of atmospheric radiation and to confirm that no one has survived beyond the Australian continent.

In both novel and film, nobody knows who initiated the planet-ending wars and it hardly matters after the fact, just as it would not today. The only difference is we realize almost seventy years later that not only wind-born radioactive dust but also nuclear winter could hasten our planetary end. The wintry chaos of Cormac McCarthy’s apocalyptic novel “The Road” may take a more authentically grim tone, just as the film “Dr. Strangelove,” released not long after “On the Beach,” suggests that only satire could do justice to the absurdity of the “policy” of Mutually Assured Destruction.

And yet in 1959, with the Cold War intensifying and only five years beyond the red-baiting Army-McCarthy hearings, it must have taken a certain courage for Stanley Kramer to make a Hollywood film of Shute’s novel, devoid of the least sign of a happy ending to lighten the quietly enveloping darkness.

The almost antique understatement of “On the Beach,” book and film both, somehow ends up working in favor of the subject. They illustrate our frustrated awareness that we imperfect humans continue to behave stupidly and sleepily in our inability to do something about our suicidally destructive weapons. Just as it sometimes seems as if we are appendages of our smartphones and computers, we appear to be appendages of our vain approach to security by deterrence. The leaders of the nuclear powers do not dare to do anything to stop the juggernaut of technological “advance,” the “we build—they build” momentum that is taking us ever faster downriver toward the waterfall.

“On the Beach” ends with a shot of a Salvation Army banner flapping emptily in the wind with the slogan “There is still time, brother.” In fact not everyone on the planet is sticking head where the sun don’t shine. More than 120 nations recently signed a United Nations pact agreeing to outlaw the manufacture, deployment and use of nuclear weapons. None of the nine nuclear nations signed, and the U.S. refused to even attend. The historic occasion didn’t come close to making the front pages of major U.S. media outlets, saturated as they have been with the Russian attempts at subversion of our electoral processes with the willing connivance of the Trump family.

In our pig-headed refusal to face reality, the nuclear powers appear to have learned nothing in all the many years since the first halting attempts, including “On the Beach,” to use the arts to dramatize the risks with which we heedlessly flirt, and how we need to change course or die. 120 nations have changed course—why not the U.S.?

Winslow Myers, is the author of “Living Beyond War: A Citizen’s Guide,” serves on the Boards of Beyond War and the War Prevention Initiative.

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