As a fourth-generation Idaho native, I used to proudly wear a T-shirt promoting my home state. It read: "Idaho -- Where the Men Are Men and the Sheep Are Nervous".
Of course, I also at one time sported a bumper sticker that read, "Welcome to Idaho -- The Tick Fever State!" But that was mostly intended to dissuade all those Orange County folks (and other fellow Californians) who were fleeing the brown people up to the lily-white pastures of rural Idaho. Unfortunately, it didn't work.
The T-shirt, though, was a way of making fun of the manly men who populated the state even then, by suggesting that the whole facade might just be a cover for a broad variety of not-so-manly manliness in private. And it contained a wry observation about the unspoken anything-goes sexual ethos that was always part of the reality of life for those rugged mountain men and chap-slappin' cowboys later celebrated by much more self-righteous people who don't know any better.
Of course, nobody falls for that stuff quite like my fellow Idahoans, especially the kind who decorate their camper trailers with giant murals of eagles and bears and still read Louis L'Amour novels. And they also -- more notably in recent years, thanks in large part to all those ex-Orangeites -- sucker avidly for right-wing politics and its embrace of a much stricter sexual ethos than what really prevailed in the ole pioneer days. It is a deep red state, much more so than it was thirty years ago.
Which is why, no doubt, the whole shift permitting gay teens into the Boy Scouts has wrapped their knickers into a tight little knot in places like Idaho. I remember growing up in the Scouts in Idaho -- the whispers about some leaders, or more pointedly, the whispers about other boys. They're, um, very uptight about this subject.
So much so that, in Kootenai County, the local (Republican, of course) sheriff is threatening to cut off any ties between his office and the Scouts. This is evidently either a display of manly manliness, a legalistic attempt at purification, or a religious meltdown. Or, most likely, all three.
Kootenai County, Idaho Sheriff Ben Wolfinger threatened on Friday to drop his department’s sponsorship of a Boy Scout troop because “[i]t would be inappropriate for the sheriff’s office to sponsor an organization that is promoting a lifestyle that is in violation of state law.” Just in case there was any ambiguity regarding what “lifestyle” Wolfinger was referring to, he also sent a copy of an anti-sodomy statute that is still on the books in Idaho to an official for the Boy Scouts. Boy Scouts of America’s National Council voted last week to stop discriminating against gay scouts, although they will continue to exclude LGBT people from scout leadership.
As Millhiser observes, Idaho does have an anti-sodomy statute on the books, but it has been superseded by federal court rulings that such laws are unconstitutional.
Not that it matters to a Republican sheriff like this clown. He just assured himself re-election, after all.
And those boys in his troop? Well, they can go off and find someone better to be an example than this self-righteous homophobe.
I would suggest they try a nice Methodist troop like the one my brother and I both enrolled in growing up in Idaho. I know they won't be turning away any gay boys, either.
Because that's the real Idaho. Sometimes clowns, even crowds of them, obscure that reality, too.