What’s With That: Eagle Scouts, curing AIDS, and anger management
What’s with the news: Across the U.S., Eagle Scouts are returning their hard-earned medals in protest of the Boy Scouts of America’s policy on homosexuality.
The BSA policy reads, “While the BSA does not proactively inquire about the sexual orientation of employees, volunteers, or members, we do not grant membership to individuals who are open or avowed homosexuals or who engage in behavior that would become a distraction to the mission of the BSA.”
Come on, BSA. DADT is so five years ago.
What’s with us: Eric Morgan has worked for Davis Senior High School for seven years, where he currently teaches English and leadership while working to keep students connected and invested in their school by maintaining an inclusive atmosphere that values individuality. Over the past several years he has also worked to engage students in dialogue regarding how the student body conducts Dance Royalty elections with regards to students outside the gender-normative sexuality routine. In addition he grew up as a Cub Scout and earned his Eagle Scout medal at the age of 18. He also worked at Camp Winton in El Dorado National Forest, where recently ten staffers quit in protest over the firing of a gay co-worker.
Morgan shared his thoughts about the BSA controversy and those returned medals with The Sacramento Press via email.
“At the time I earned my Eagle Scout medal, it meant that I knew how to follow through,” said Morgan. “And that I knew how to work with a team to take action and influence the world, instead of remain passive in it. It helped empower my confidence to make the world a better place through even small actions.”
Morgan continued, “Now it means that I am among the highest achievers in an institution that chooses to see sexuality as one of the most important driving forces in what determines the quality of our character, and who finds it impossible to be a strong leader and role model while being gay … While I feel proud of the work I put in as a scout, and while I am proud of what I was able to teach younger scouts when I served as a staff member at my summer camp, I don’t feel proud to be so affiliated with the organization anymore. It’s weird to be a high achiever with an organization when I so strongly disagree with their stance. It has made me consider sending back my award over the years.”
In regards to the recent movement of Eagle Scouts returning their medals, Morgan said, “They are letting the BSA know, in a very quiet and powerful way, that not all scouts agree with the current view of sexuality in scouting. Few people are willing to give up the honors that arise from this kind of work, and that they are willing to do so to educate this institution illustrates how important they see this issue to be. It means that they are doing what they believe is right.”
But Morgan also sees potential for change down the road.
“I would hope that the BSA changes its stance on gay scouts and leaders. This will be difficult, because currently the BSA is very closely tied with religious institutions who predominantly look down on homosexuality. I don’t have much faith that current scout leadership will change their minds. However, many churches are evolving their views on sexuality, and these churches can sponsor troops who share that value. Also, many of the folks I speak to about this disagree with the BSA’s current stance on homosexuality. These folks are becoming parents and are natural leaders, people who are considering the mark they want to leave on scouting as adults. These new leaders will want to see scouting change and grow into the modern world, and they’ll have the power to do so.”
“There will be challenges,” Morgan said in closing. “There will be groups that will choose to dig their heels in, and many will pull their children out of scouting, and the BSA may even fragment over this, but in some way the institution is going to have to change because there will be enough leaders dissatisfied that some sort of accommodation will need to be made. These are challenges I believe the BSA should face and be prepared to weather in order to do what is right.”
Anti-gay policies come across as more and more archaic each year, and each day the world moves closer to leaving behind those that hold such beliefs. As a former Girl Scout, I am proud to say that Girl Scouts of the USA holds no discriminatory membership policies in regards to sexual preference. I can only imagine how heartbroken I’d be to see that stance change.
What’s with the news: On July 24, Timothy Ray Brown, the “Berlin Patient” spoke at the International AIDS conference, assuring the room that he is still HIV-free.
Brown was diagnosed as HIV-positive in 1995, and received anti-retroviral therapy for 11 years. In 2006, when Brown’s health began to deteriorate, doctors used a stem cell transplant to treat his leukemia, which is thought to have both cured his leukemia and eliminated the HIV from his system.
What’s with us: Dr. Joseph Anderson is currently an assistant professor at UC Davis in the Department of Internal Medicine’s Division for Infectious Diseases. He also works with the UC Davis Stem Cell Program, and is the head of the HIV Disease Team. This whole “AIDS cure” thing is a little complex, and Anderson was nice enough to try to break it down for us.
“Research is now heavily focused on eradicating HIV in the body by flushing out viral reservoirs which hide in immune cells, and developing new drugs to activate and kill viral reservoirs aimed more towards trying to eradicate HIV from the body,” said Anderson.
“A smaller number of labs are actually focusing on stem cell gene therapy as a cure for HIV. Timothy Brown, who is the only documented case of someone being cured of HIV, was treated by being transplanted with HIV-resistant cells from a donor. There is, however, no worldwide database which screens for the CCR5 delta-32 natural HIV-resistant gene, and it would be extremely difficult to find a matched donor for every infected individual. Therefore, our lab focuses on genetically engineering a patient’s own stem cells which are being artificially genetically modified to become HIV-resistant, compared to Timothy’s case where naturally HIV-resistant stem cells were used."
“This method would more than likely work with both populations of patients who are HIV-positive and those who have progressed to AIDS. However, patients with clinical AIDS are more fragile and morbidity during the process is more likely.”
In regards to the implications of Brown’s case on future treatments, Anderson said, “As Timothy Brown is the only documented case of an HIV-infected patient being cured, we hope more research and funding will be directed towards stem cell gene therapy approaches. This method of transplanting HIV-resistant stem cells has been the only cure for HIV so far. My lab is currently in the regulatory stages of getting our stem cell gene therapy clinical approved and we will be starting our trials in the near future."
“Timothy Brown’s case shows that a cure for HIV is possible. Some critics say that it is too expensive of a procedure to use a bone marrow transplant to cure an infected patient, but if the tables were turned I am sure that cost would not be of concern. Therefore, more research and funding should be directed towards that goal. No matter the cost of the procedure, patients deserve a cure and funding should be directed towards that. Underdeveloped countries should not be overlooked, but we need to find a cure first and then figure out how to reach everyone worldwide.”
You know, stem cells fascinate me more than Santa Claus; it seems they have the potential to fix a lot of scary stuff like cancer and AIDS, and maybe eradicating reality television. Kudos to UC Davis — someone ought to find a cure and it sure won’t be me.
What’s with the news: Feeling pissed off? Did that barista make your latte with whole milk instead of soy? Maybe your kid sister used your cashmere sweater for bedding in her hamster’s cage. Well if you’re in Germany, you don’t have to humiliate yourself by losing your marbles in public or with anyone you’ll have to see at the office tomorrow. You can call “Schimpf-los,” or “Swear Away” in English.
That’s right. For the low, low price of 1.49 euros, or about $1.82 U.S. dollars per minute, you can swear your face off to a complete and total stranger.
What’s with us: Dr. Catherine Cohen is a licensed Clinical Psychologist, former editor of “Sacramento Valley Psychologist” and former president of the Sacramento Valley Psychological Association. Last month she discussed Jeremiah McDonald’s YouTube video with us, and she’s back this week to talk about anger management and the therapeutic value of lashing out at strangers.
Regarding the popularity of such a service, Cohen said, “It’s much easier to discharge aggression onto complete strangers because it’s easier to dehumanize them. The caller then doesn’t have to deal with the attendant guilt or competing positive feelings which complicate things when we are angry at those we care about."
“Hypothetically speaking, the value of this hotline is to allow callers some sort of catharsis. Instead of using a punching bag to get out anger or frustration, the person who receives the call is the punching bag. Because it’s another human being, it ostensibly gives the caller a way to work out feelings in a more related manner."
“Of course some angry callers are likely to be abusive in their anger. This is not helpful for either the caller or the listener, particularly since the hotline is only for anger discharge. This sort of release is not necessarily therapeutic. Some things really are best when they are not acted upon."
“I don’t think it’s unacceptable per se,” Cohen said in closing. “You could make a case this service is more appealing in cultures which tend to be emotionally repressive. Having the hotline creates some parameters around the expression of intense (and) unacceptable words and emotions, and charging per minute makes it transactional. Therefore, people could feel safer in doing something they normally prohibit. Like other behaviors we feel uncomfortable with, there is typically also a thrill involved. But do we really need to encourage more angry exchanges in the world?”
When I first stumbled across the article and the “Schimpf-los” service, I thought it was amusing at best, and a sad reflection of our society at worst. However, having recently been dumped by a complete moron who shall remain nameless, I feel I’ve been too quick to judge and shall purchase an international calling card immediately for further research. Wish me luck!
Each week "What’s With That" will find local experts from the Sacramento area to weigh in on national and international news stories. Stumble across an interesting item? Wondering, "what’s WITH that?" Email firstname.lastname@example.org with your ideas!