Zen and the Art of Flag Burning

The road leading to a small weekend camping trip with my son was filled with existential dread. I didn’t want him to join the cub scouts. For a combination of obvious reasons, lets just say the way I view reality and the way the scouting organization views reality differ.

But, he has friends in it. He’s stoked. He wants to go. Given how hard the pandemic was on his early friendship years, who am I to try to stop it.

So, I did what I always did leading up to some shit that fills me with existential dread. I overprepared. Bought a bunch of camping gear. Put up the tent in my yard twice so I don’t look like a fool trying to put it up for the first time out of the bag.

There were to be plenty of food, but I couldn’t trust that. So I bought my own rations, water. I could have sustained both of us enough to go home. Prepared like we were heading to the patagonia or some shit.


The campground in question is one of many owned by the scouting organization. Clean, maintained. Built for people who LARP being outdoorsmen. Not that I am to be sure, but put it this way, they have wood platforms for you to put your tent on, so that you aren’t sleeping on the ground.

The actual event was…mostly….like a chance for parents to hang out and let their kids just go ape shit in a place… Like there were in fact scout events, knot tying and all that. But, really the bulk of the time was straight chaos. I’m talking kids running around with open knives and a bare minimum of parent correction on these kids. Most of the parents just sat around and talked. No liquor cause scouts. But, like socializing.

Which is most definitely not for me. I hanged. The weather was kind in that it actually got hot. T-shirts ended up being the order of the day.

I am not going to say it was all terrible. I did enjoy some of the time. I found a bit of quiet among the chaos walking in the woods. But for like 30 min. Cause thats as much outdoors as I want.

But, I did think I was going to make it through the day with the minimum amount of stupid…


Then the sun set. And it started to get cold. Now i was stuck in the woods, sitting in a folding chair, waiting for the scout leaders to decide enough time had past to do smores. While that is going on. All the kids had flashlights now and decided to start wrestling with one another.

A parent and one of the scoutmasters tried to break it up verbally with no avail. At this point, I am fucking cold and done with this shit. I walk up and yell at these kids, “I don’t care who your parents are. If I have to get up again, you will each regret your decisions individually. Find something else to do.”

One of the parents goes, “Where did you learn how to do that?” I go, “my mom”


After the smores finally occurred, I assumed I get to figure out how to stay warm through the night in my fucking tent. Oh no. We were then informed we would have a flag retirement ceremony.

I did not know this was a fucking thing.

Apparently, my son’s elementary school gave the scouts a dozen fucking flags to retire. For those of you who don’t know what this is, this means you fucking burn it. So, he asked for volunteers from among the kids to put the flags over the fire. And dude was 10,000% serious. One kid started saluting the burning flags and he just goes “no, you are not dressed for that.”

Two of the flags were fucking plastic, and about six of them seemed like there was nothing wrong with them.

He then mentioned he was going to fish out the grommets to give to veterans.

Look, I grew up under the tutelage of George Carlin.

Timestamped for your convenience, but you should really watch Jammin In New York in full.

This is apparently a thing they do. When I got home and told my wife, she was fucking shocked. Now none of this phased my son, just sat there and watched it. Said nothing.

Look, at the end of the day, if this is how scouting feels they have contributions to the infrastructure of the great US suppression machine, that’s…you know…whatever man. But this is just more of, shit I dont want my son to deal with.


That night my only residing emotion was cold. I had long johns for him and good sleeping bags for the both of us. But it is fucking unpleasant sleeping in a tent, and I am old as shit.

I did not sleep well that night at all. Woke up at least 4-5 times shivering in the cold. I just kept thinking how this is not my world at all. I don’t want these sort of weird patriotism infiltrating my son’s perspectives in life.

Now, I don’t think that will happen. He is just much more outdoors than I am. His big takeaway from the weekend is that he loved being outside and playing with his friends. And all that is fine. I think the trappings of discipline don’t interest him very much.

And that’s fine. And, truthfully, I can deal with this kind of bullshit again in the future. Cause I will have to.

But it will come to a head at some point. Not sure when. I’m happy to kick the can down the road, but I want to avoid an Alex P Keaton scenario if possible. Maybe its not possible to avoid that. Maybe I’m just paranoid. Who knows. I don’t.

For now, I am just glad to have survived intact.

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