By Gary Swick, President
July is a time for celebration because July 4th is Independence Day for the United States of America. This holiday is not religion-oriented, nor a family-centered time for gathering. It doesn’t involve greeting cards or dressing up. But it does involve decorations with flags and some extravagant performances in the form of parades and fireworks. The day goes beyond individuals and families to include communities and our whole country. We like to highlight military achievements and talk about freedom, ending with a fireworks display simulating these lines from the Star-Spangled Banner:
“O’er the ramparts we watch’d were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air…”
The Star-Spangled Banner itself elicits a feeling of patriotism. In this case, I like Wikipedia’s definition:
“Patriotism or national pride is the feeling of love, devotion and sense of attachment to a homeland and alliance with other citizens who share the same sentiment. This attachment can be a combination of many different feelings relating to one’s own homeland, including ethnic, cultural, political or historical aspects.”
Maybe a deeper consideration about patriotism as the love of homeland and shared sentiment is offered by the wilderness advocate, John Muir:
“Wonderful how completely everything in wild nature fits into us, as if truly part and parent of us. The sun shines not on us but in us. The rivers flow not past, but through us, thrilling, tingling, vibrating every fiber and cell of the substance of our bodies, making them glide and sing. The trees wave and the flowers bloom in our bodies as well as our souls, and every bird song, wind song, and tremendous storm song of the rocks in the heart of the mountains is our song, our very own, and sings our love.”
Warriors as Patriots
Indigenous Americans understood our connection to Mother Earth. Many things in nature were held sacred to them and there was a sense of harmony. When the balance was upset, ceremonies followed in an effort to reestablish that state of equilibrium. The coming of the French fur traders, and European settlers created a loss of independence for the native peoples of our homeland.
In many native cultures, the patriot is the warrior, the father. The protector of well being. When I think about the people at Standing Rock, defending their homeland against the threat of loss of independence to a pipeline project, I see patriots. Their feeling about water is that it is life and must be protected. They are opposing government action in defense of their heritage and their/our children’s future. It has been a brave and selfless battle.
Exceptional about the U.S., are our vast holdings of preserved lands. Our national wilderness areas, fish & wildlife refuges, national parks, national monuments, and wild and scenic rivers are investments in the future. Some of all of these have been recently threatened by private interests and their friends in political office. Defending them is an act of patriotism. It occurs through the efforts of local activists, non-profit organizations, and legislatures. Our voices and our votes are our weapons.
The Fox River deserves to be returned to a free flowing state. The dams on the Fox River have outlived their intended purpose of providing power for mechanical operations, electrical production, and even providing a source of ice from the impoundments. Removal of the dams makes economic sense and, more importantly, ecological sense. The reduced water quality upstream of dams in the impoundment is consistent and considerable, and now well documented with scientific data. The degraded habitat and physical barriers to fish and mussels is also demonstrated with field data. Advocating for dam removal with local and state representatives is needed and is a true form of patriotism by restoring our home river.
Litter and the Watershed Caretaker
If it is on the ground, it is connected to the river. The most common item in litter collections is the cigarette filter. Demonstrated to have no impact on protecting a smoker’s health, this marvel of marketing is mainly a plastic combination that is toxic. Litter is an aesthetic violation, but also a health and safety threat to wildlife. Only a patriot would collect such nasty products for disposal; therefore joining us for a river cleanup is truly an act of community patriotism.
Nurturing our connection to the river is important. Refer back to Muir’s words, “The rivers flow not past, but through us, thrilling, tingling, vibrating every fiber and cell of the substance of our bodies, making them glide and sing.” The Fox River offers many types of active and passive forms of outdoor recreation. As the Fabulous Fox! River Trail comes into play, the hope is that more folks will come to visit and enjoy our Fox River. A wonderful way to directly connect is by signing up for a canoe trip in our “Find the Fox” series. These guided excursions get participants in touch with the beauty of the river. Find more information on our website and join us for some family fun.
The conclusion of 4th of July celebrations usually comes as darkness takes over. Much time, effort, and taxpayer contributions go into municipal shows. As a Schweitzer Environmental Center (SEC) fundraiser, we are inviting you to enjoy our spectacular views and several communities’ fireworks displays from one location. We can “ooh and ah” in all directions and collectively think about the freedom that our river deserves.
Enlist as a Fox River Patriot
Please join us on the 4th at Schweitzer Environmental Center, at a Love Our River Day litter clean-up and celebration, or on a “Find The Fox” canoe trip. Together as patriots we can “Keep on Fixin” the Fox.”