My dear sister Rose and I have lunch together about once a month – on me, of course, as regular readers of this Web log would readily surmise. Yesterday, she selected Tosca, on F Street. She started off with prosciutto di Parma con cavoletti di Brussels e pecorino pinzani tartufo “riserva” and I with guazzetto di vongole e polipo con patate, olive in salsa di astice, over which we split a bottle of 2006 Sicilian Donna Fugata mille una notte. For a main course, Rose ordered the filet mignon alla griglia con erbette di campo alla Toscana, fagiolini alla provenzale e salsa alla coda di bue, and I the merluzzo in crosta di nocciole con purea di cavolfiori tartufata, bietole al limone e cavolfiori heirloom. It was during the hiatus between appetizer and entrée that she decided to unburden herself.
“It was bad enough having Hank moping around unemployed,” she complained, “but since Shannon lost her job… well, both of them were conservatives before they ended up out of work, but now that they’re both unemployed, too, I swear, Tom, they’ve totally gone off the deep end. It’s like the two of them have started, oh, I don’t know… feeding off one another, I guess is the way to put it. I tell you, if they were kids in one of my elementary school classes, I’d make arrangements to keep them separated.”
“Are you saying,” I wondered, “that they’ve started working together on conservative causes?”
“Yes,” Rose confirmed after a rather deep sip of wine. “Unfortunately. And what’s worse, they are proving to be a very effective team.”
“Effective?” I asked. “At what?”
“At getting the Girl Scouts kicked out of our church,” Rose announced with a noticeable air of indignation. “No sooner did they hear that St. Timothy’s, over in Chantilly, had told the Girl Scouts they were unwelcome, than they started leaning on the priest at our church to kick the Girl Scouts out, too. And it took them less than a week to make him cave in!”
“What in the world,” I stammered, “do Hank and Shannon have against the Girl Scouts?”
“You had better believe,” Rose assured me, “that was the first question I asked them. They say that the Girl Scouts promote a gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender, liberal feminist, pro-abortion agenda.”
“The Girl Scouts?” I replied, gobsmacked.
“None other,” she confirmed. “Furthermore, Hank says they support Planned Parenthood, and Shannon claims they promote promiscuity by giving the girls sex education.”
“What evidence,” I inquired, “do they have for assertions like that?”
“They say that the online instruction Web page for the Girl Scouts’ ‘On Your Own’ merit badge patch discusses learning about ‘real life,’ including ‘checkbooks, sewing, college life, babies,’ and ‘stuff they don’t teach in school,’ then provides a link to Planned Parenthood. To them, that proves that the Girl Scouts are promoting loose morals and abortion.”
“Do Hank and Shannon,” I mused, “make a distinction between the national organization and the individual Girl Scout troops and councils across America? Isn’t parental permission required for participation in any sort of activity related to what an organization like Planned Parenthood might be involved with?”
“To them,” Rose shrugged, “I guess the G.S.A. is just one big, monolithic liberal conspiracy.”
“It’s always easier to think about things that way,” I observed. “No reason to get caught up in unneeded complexities if a nice, simple generalization is available.”
“Indubitably,” Rose agreed. “Hank and Shannon are convinced every Girl Scout council in the country takes their orders directly from a coterie of scheming extremist feminist atheist dykes at 420 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York.”
“Which, of course,” I confidently asserted, “is surely absurd. There are probably far more moderate, heterosexual, mainstream women with traditional family values at Girl Scout Headquarters than there are extremists, feminists, atheists and dykes combined, not to mention abortionist nurse practitioners, crypto-Communists and lurking child molesters.”
“Please,” Rose responded, “not to mention. They also groused about the Girl Scouts organization in Arizona telling a religious studies major at the University of Arizona in Tucson, who was wearing a T-shirt with a picture of an aborted fetus on it while at their offices, that she’d have to turn the T-shirt inside out or leave. Hanks says that, even though she was an employee, she was there when she was off duty, and therefore the Girl Scouts had no right to demand anything of the sort from her.”
“I’m sure,” I asserted, “that, just like any other office these days, there was an employee handbook, and that handbook probably bans clothing with provocative or offensive pictures or slogans on it.”
“Tell that to Hank,” Rose suggested. “He’s convinced it proves the Girl Scouts are jack-booted thugs out to destroy the First Amendment.”
“Did the Girl Scouts fire her?” I sought to confirm.
“No,” Rose shook her head, “she decided to quit. But that makes no difference to Shannon – in her eyes, the Girl Scouts are to blame for yet another unemployed conservative. And both she and Hank are up in arms about the speaker roster at the Girl Scout convention in Houston. It’s a celebration of the centennial anniversary of the Girl Scouts of America, and they say that there’s not one speech scheduled by anyone with conservative credentials. According to them, the Devil Himself invited everyone who’s going to address the crowd.”
“Like who?” I implored. “Gloria Steinem?”
“No,” Rose explained, “like Swanee Hunt, whom Hank describes as ‘a card-carrying liberal who has gone on record against the Catholic bishops’ position on the sanctity of human life,’ meaning that she asserted that ninety-six percent of American Catholic women have ignored Church doctrine on contraception at some point.”
“Except you and Shannon,” I gently japed.
“Well,” Rose sniffed, “if I have my doubts about the infallibility of the Pope, you can be sure I have them about the infallibility of Swanee Hunt, but that’s no reason to condemn the Girl Scouts. Then there’s Annise Parker. She’s the mayor of Houston.”
“That makes sense,” I vouched. “The Girl Scouts are holding their convention in her city. Of course they’re going to invite the mayor.”
“What’s got Hank and Shannon bent out of shape,” Rose elaborated, “is that Mayor Parker is a lesbian who is also the campaign treasurer for Planned Parenthood. Then there’s Syliva Garcia, who’s billed as a representative of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials. Hank and Shannon claim she has ties to Planned Parenthood and Catholics for Choice. Then there’s C.J. Golden, the Taoist scholar, who’s noted for combining Taoism with Women’s Studies. Shannon says she should be barred from speaking to the Girl Scouts because Taoism doesn’t ‘require belief in a Creator, admit to Original Sin or recognize the necessity of salvation.’ Hank says her presence proves the Girl Scouts are ‘too New-Agey’ and ‘want to turn my girls into wiccans or something.’ There’s also Dana Agamalian, who, I must admit, actually serves as a Planned Parenthood committee member, not that I think that should make any difference – she’s just an invited speaker, after all. And Hank researched Debra Gano, another speaker at the convention. He claims he found out she’s a ‘pied piper for immoral behavior and abortions’ who runs Facebook pages that point girls to Planned Parenthood, feminist and GLBT oriented Web content. And there’s Catherine B. Reynolds, whom Shannon denounces as someone who ‘holds up Margaret Sanger as role model for the Girl Scouts.’”
“My, that’s pretty esoteric for Shannon,” I remarked.
“Now that you mention it, yes, I guess it is,” Rose nodded. “There’s also Katie Couric. They both think she’s obviously a man-hating, pro-abortion radical feminist.”
“Okay,” I conceded, “That just goes to show, even Hank and Shannon can be right sometimes.”
“Furthermore, Hank and Shannon complain that the Girl Scouts of America belongs to the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, which is headquartered in London, and which they say is engaged in the promotion of Socialist ideology, lesbian cultural values, and the distribution of contraceptives and sex toys to underage girls all over the planet.”
“That’s… well, given that it’s headquartered in England, I’m sure that has got to be mostly untrue,” I speculated. “Especially the parts about Socialism and sex toys. But even if this world organization with which the G.S.A. is affiliated does, in fact, encourage or enable distribution of contraceptives to participant members in some of the countries which have Girl Guide or Girl Scout organizations, and even if there are some obviously homoerotic overtones to gender-exclusive activities such as scouting, I would say none of that matters if the G.S.A. doesn’t contribute any money to this… W.A.G.G.G.S. in London. So, does it?”
“They don’t,” Rose confirmed. “I checked. The Girl Scouts of America don’t pay dues to belong to the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, nor does a single penny of proceeds from the sale of Girl Scout cookies go to it. But that’s not enough for Hank and Shannon. As far as they are concerned, the Girl Scouts are convicted on the basis of guilt by association. And now all of Shannon’s girls, as well as mine, are coming to me and asking for an explanation. Their cognitive dissonance is so thick, you can cut it with a knife! ‘Why can’t I be in Girl Scouts anymore?’ ‘Why can’t I be in Brownies?’ ‘How come I can’t wear my scouting uniform in church anymore?’ It’s heartbreaking!”
“Well,” I inquired, “what have you been telling them?”
“That sometimes,” she sighed, “adults get very, very concerned about principles, like what God really wants, or what the Bible actually means when it says something, like what’s a sin and what isn’t; or what the difference between good and evil is; or what the people who wrote the Constitution had in mind when they put those particular words on parchment. And when adults get concerned about principles, sometimes it makes them do things that children won’t understand until they’re older.”
“So,” I concluded, “as kids, when they hear that key phrase, ‘things that you won’t understand until you’re older,’ they know right away that it’s about sex, right?”
“Of course,” Rose agreed. “And then they ask me more questions, trying to figure out what in the world the Girl Scouts have to do with that, of all things. Then I have to explain to them that their father – or Uncle Hank, and their mother – or Aunt Shannon, as the case may be, are worried that if something like Brownies or Girl Scouts gets a lot of girls together all the time to do all kinds of things with one another, then maybe, if the adults who are with them don’t send them the right messages about what that means and what the limits are, then there’s a danger that they won’t grow up to like boys the way Jesus wants them to. Or maybe some of the adults in Girl Scouts will tell them things God doesn’t want them to hear, such as about what some boys and girls grow up to do after they get married and are supposed to make babies like the Bible tells them to, but they don’t; and they disobey Him instead. And if either of those things happen to a girl in Girl Scouts or Brownies, that will make God angry with her, and the anger of God is something to be feared as much as anything. So, while Hank and Shannon fear God, just like the Girl Scouts are supposed to, Hank and Shannon are worried that maybe the Girl Scouts don’t fear God enough, maybe not at all. So that’s the reason Hank’s daughters can’t wear their Scout or Brownie uniforms in front of our priest anymore, why Shannon says her daughters can’t be in Scouts or Brownies anymore, and why Hank’s daughters are going to be attending Scout and Brownie meetings at a Unitarian church from now on.”
“And that works?” I sought to confirm.
“With the young ones,” Rose admitted. “The older ones, not so much.”
“What do they say?” I probed.
“Generally,” she related, “ they ask why their mother or father – as the case may be – is acting like such an idiotic jerk – or words to that effect. Then I have to spend a couple of minutes reminding them to respect their parents and arguing with them about why they have to respect their parents, all the time, every time, even when the parent in question is acting like an idiotic jerk.”
“After which?” I pressed.
“After which,” Rose sighed again, this time much more deeply, “the conversation is usually pretty much over.”
“Kids,” I philosophized, as the waiter brought our entrées, “what can you do? Decided what you want for dessert yet?”
“But now,” Rose continued, obviously ignoring my invitation to change the subject, “those two have gone completely beyond the Pale!”
“Beyond the Pale?” I echoed as the waiter, startled by Rose’s outburst, discreetly scurried away.
“Girl Scout cookies!” Rose softly wailed. “Hank won’t allow them in the house! Even though I made him promise not to take our girls out of Brownies and Scouts, he won’t let them sell Girl Scout cookies. And now, when the neighbor girls come to the front door and offer to take orders for Girl Scout cookies, Shannon starts… shrieking at them about… oh, Christ… about condoms and lesbians and Socialist conspiracies and the Constitution and trans-vaginal sonograms and abortions and eternal damnation and… oh, Tom, when I run into those little girls’ parents at the supermarket… or the mall…. I’m… so… embarrassed.”
“There, there,” I consoled, reaching across the table to confer a brotherly pat on her shoulder, “eat your nice filet mignon and help me finish this bottle of wine. Then, after you have a really special dessert with some espresso and forty year old port, I guarantee, you’re going to feel a whole lot better.”
“Okay, Tom,” she sniffed, raising her glass and looking into my eyes, “here’s to the Girl Scouts of America. Bon appétit.”