I try to be a calm and charitable person. But just when I have some of my smaller base urges under control—my flippancy, my latent cynicism—I trip in some new droppings of those sincere, well-meaning U.S. citizens whose rhetoric can’t be distinguished from the Kremlin’s, and am freshly undone. This time the Boy Scouts and Camp Fire, Inc., have sabotaged my resolve: I grow reckless with despair at such folks.

Let me say first that, judging by their handbooks, the Girl Scouts are as innocent as when I was one. They do not appear to deserve mention here. It’s the Boy Scouts and Camp Fire persons (no longer is membership restricted to those of the female persuasion) who have bought—lock, stock, and loaded barrel—the peacenik point of view.

The Boy Scouts are by far the lesser of the two evils. To their credit, they don’t once talk about the “arms race” in their handbook for the “Citizenship in the World” badge. In their discus sion of different types of government, they start out straightforwardly enough on democracy and even begin well when they get to communism: “Communism is both an economic system and a political system. In these countries, political power lies in the hands of relatively few. Opposition to government is severely limited and there are few individual rights.” 

But did you know that:

—”Central planning is the chief feature of communism”?


—”Cuba is the only communist nation in the Western Hemisphere”? (This, in a handbook claiming to be a 1985 printing of a 1984 revision.)

—”Tension and conflict arise between democratic nations and communist nations because their ways of life are based on different ideologies“?

—”The aim of communism is the equal distribution of goods and wealth”?

There is no mention of communism’s imperative atheism, which, since “A Scout is reverent,” surprises me. And the Boy Scouts also wear green blinders (or are they red?) when examining “military dictatorships”: “Examples of countries ruled by a military dictator ship are Libya, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, and Chile.” 

Maddening as this is, the correct parts are perhaps a beginning of enlightenment. We can’t give our kids the kind of history books we proffer now and expect them to swallow whole the real truth of the world; they need it in little doses. This is especially true if, as the Camp Fire handbook “In Pursuit of Peace” claims, “Young people are crying out for a chance to interact with caring adults who are not afraid to admit that they are scared, too.” 

Here are some examples of what Camp Fire, Inc., obviously thinks is wrongful, counterproductive thought expressed by misled “adolescents recently interviewed about war, peace, and nuclear issues”: 

—”Peace is a vague concept, simply the absence of war. Peace is something like milk toast—weak, passive and boring.” (Now really—do you know any 15-year-olds who have heard of milk toast or would use language like that?)


—”Nobody is doing much about peace. We are powerless.”

—”The future may never come and it probably will not be better than today. ” (Huh?)

So far, so good; I agree that these are bad attitudes. But then we come to “The Soviets are the enemy,” and I would appreciate an iota of evidence that this is an illogical conclusion to draw. 

In 1983 the Camp Fire Congress approved a resolution “encouraging the development of peacemaking skills among children, youth and families for their homes, communities, nation, and world,” because “people every where are concerned about war and peace. We must find solutions to the problems which threaten our very existence on this earth.” (Didn’t you just know that phrase was coming!) “The words of Gandhi tell us where to begin—with our children. It is young children who can most easily acquire the qualities needed to create a peaceful world—caring, responsibility, ability to resolve conflict, and hope for the future.” 

“Children are exposed to more talk about war and the threat of nuclear destruction than most adults realize. At an early age, children can become very frightened by what they see and hear of world news. Many children feel helpless in a threatening world.” And apparently most of the threatening is being done by Camp Fire leaders. 

To ameliorate this hideous situation, Camp Fire offers two programs. “A Gift of Peace” is for kids in grades I through 6, and “In Pursuit of Peace” is for “older youth and adults.” “A Gift of Peace” is basically innocent-or would be, in the proper hands. Under the chapter subheading “Today’s Peacemakers,” though, is the suggestion to “Learn about a peacemaker who has been helping to create a more peaceful world during the lifetime of the children. They may remember Samantha Smith, who wrote a letter to the leaders of the U.S.S.R. asking for peace.” (My thoughts about the media making a national icon of a child because she thinks like a child do not belong in this family magazine.) In “A Gift of Peace,” kids learn about being a friend and that “no two people see the same situation in exactly the same way,” both good things for children to learn. On the other hand, they are encouraged to read Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes, along with Dr. Seuss’s blatantly political The Butter Battle Book. (A full-grown peacenik I know adores Sadako and, when he’s not holding a lit candle on the capitol steps or writing letters to the editor or flying—God help us!—to Helsinki, spends his time making paper cranes and tying them to his neighbors’ trees, to their extreme consternation; when he finishes the thousandth, presto! There Will Be Peace—unless he gets a tail full of shot first.) 

“In Pursuit of Peace,” for older kids, is meatier, especially towards the end. In an activity section called “The Nu clear Threat,” young adults are advised to “View a movie on nuclear war or attend a lecture or other presentation on nuclear war where some people with expert knowledge are present. ” (And of course a pro-defense expert is always invited to such lectures and presentations . . . ) “Several excellent movies are available from local libraries, peace groups, schools and churches. ‘In the Nuclear Shadow’ is a series of interviews with young people. ‘The Last Epidemic’ and ‘The Day After’ are descriptions of what would happen if a bomb were dropped on a major city. ‘The Race Nobody Wins’ describes the damages and costs of the international arms race. ” 

After all this, it’s nice to find that there is a solution to our tribulations, this powder keg we sit on, and that young Camp Fire persons will be able to help change the world, in a very concrete way, instead of just talking about it like those silly diplomats: “Become involved in a peacemaking project with others. Every community has peacemaking groups and projects involving such activities as making paper cranes, making peace quilts or rib bons, creating art exhibits, and writing letters to world leaders. ” Of course! How could we all have been such fools? An activist at heart, I shall start my quilt today. 

Nineteen eighty-six is the U.N. declared “Year of Peace,” which, look ing back at the events of the year, would tend to make me worry about 1987—if the declaration weren’t as meaningless and insubstantial as most other U. N. pronouncements. And I’m here to tell you that yes, I’m scared, I’m crying out for a chance to interact with other caring adults who are not afraid to admit that they are scared, too—and mad as hell: Most of us have been giving money to these two groups for years, whether we know it or not.