KEEPING WATCH - MISSED A MEETING
HENRY COUNTY COURTHOUSE —
I stayed home with a tooth ache today. It was like missing a day at work. I have always valued a perfect attendence record on the job. So I sat at home thinking about the value of Watch Dogs and the often oppressive power of conformity.
As Marty left the Conservation Board he said we needed a watch dog group and as I watched the process of selecting new board members after Marty was removed, it became apparent to me he was right.
When I asked to see records and got replies like, "What do You think this is, a pubic library." Or " We are going to have to go head to head on this aren't we?" it was apparent our freedoms needed to come out of mothballs and get a bit of exposure and some exercise.
The political structure of our single party county does not favor keeping a dissenting voice on the Conservation Board. However, at this point, I no longer believe that adding a Democrat to that board would necessarily make a significant difference. After all, Marty is a conservative and courageous Republican. It was his courage not his party affiliation that made the difference and saved the park.
In rural communities where the media has to cater to the status quo to survive and everybody just wants to get along self appointed watch dogs perform an essential function.
The courage of Old Dogs willing to stand alone in the night and bark at irregularities is more essential then what color their spots are. Yes, they may make it harder to sleep but hopefully they make it easier to to see opportunites for improvement and to find the courage to act on them.
Dr. Zimbardo of Stanford University has made a study of why good people do bad things. He organized and managed the Stanford Prison Experiment where a mock prison created on campus turned out to be all too real. After things had gone altogether too far, a young woman, invited to participate as a researcher, brought the experiment to a close with her scathing assessment of the situation. Her honestly and her courage broke the spell. Later, this is how she described her delivery of that assessment.
Zimbardo got “an incredibly emotional outburst from me (I am usually a rather contained person). I was angry and frightened and in tears. I said something like, “What you are doing to those boys is a terrible thing.” See: http://lucifereffect.com/
Some say public speaking is a universal fear in human beings. For many standing up to power is unthinkable while rationalizing reasons to avoid any confrontation comes automatically. What made her response even more difficult was that it was more than a catharsis, more than an outburst to be followed by acquiescence. It was a stand she was taking and if nothing was done then she would have to do more. As she put it, “ When one complains about some injustice and the complaint only results in cosmetic modifications while the situation flows on unchanged, then that dissent and disobedience are not worth much.”
I made such decisions in my professional life. I came to refer to them as career limiting decisions. They were effective in creating change but they came at significant personal and professional cost.
Unlike professional lawyers who make a good living in a well-orchestrated contest, the layman, the employee, the board member, John Q Public, the parishioner - all find their welfare and their position in the community at risk when they are called to respond to a voice calling out only from within. Silence that voice and it is easy to keep one’s composure and one’s job and one’s “buddies” as you go with flow. But dare to listen to that voice and it will demand that You become the instrument of its revelation. It may well make a fool of You, as the flow of emotion exceeds your capacity to express it.
However, over time the emotion will become manifest in the work and a steady voice and a firm grasp of what You are called to do, even to Be, will emerge.
Marty Fraser heard the call and dared to listen and paid the price for Mud Creek Park.
I owe him something, as do all who believe that the ongoing Creation that is actualizing in the natural beauty and biological diversity in our parks is worthy of our most careful consideration and heartfelt appreciation.
6/26/2012 GLANCING BACK - GOING FORWARD
I enjoyed meeting with the Supervisors today. It is always a pleasure to stand up for the likes of Marty Fraser. What ever happens in the near term, in the long term Marty will be remembered as a courageous champion of the forested parks of Henry County at a critical time. In time the attention of the Conservation Board will once again come to focus on conservation and when it does those dedicated to the preservation of the diverse life of the forests and the conservation of the trees and the soil will remember Marty much as I remember Conservation Board member and bird bander, George (Pete) Crane.
I remember Kent White as a conservation board member saying at a public hearing that he took no pleasure in selling off the small parks but we had a once in a life time opportunity to purchase the property across the road that demanded sacrifice. However, when the sale of the parks was nixed no effort was made to go after REAP funding or to organize local fund raising. Those who opposed selling the small parks were not, in the main, opposed to purchasing the proposed development site and I for one had offered to assist financially. As it turned out the primary motive for selling the forested parks was not the urgent need for cash but the desire to centralize.
The last thing we need is the centralization of conservation. We need conservation spread from corner to corner across the county. We need a Crooked Creek Wetland and we need county wide water quality monitoring. If there is to be a bright future the likes of these elements are essential ingredients.
I gained access to a a tape of a Conservation Board meeting at the conservation office upon which Conservation Director John Pullis was seeking to convince Conservation Board members to first log the forested parks and then sell them. When one of the board members objected saying the public would not hear to the logging of the parks John came back with, "We will not call it logging. We will call it timber stand improvement." Our forests and our freedoms both require constant vigilance as silver tongues weave nets of deception.
I asked board member Jim Onorato if he would keep that tape safe for me for future reference and he said he would, however, when I asked to listen to it again it had mysteriously disappeared. I accept that Jim is as puzzled by that as I am.
I remember talking to Supervisor Gary See one morning in the courthouse about the decision to deny Marty Fraser's request for his second term on the conservation board. A request with an unbroken tradition of being granted. I remember asking Gary - why lie about why Marty is being denied the opportunity to serve a second term?
You see, Marty refused to walk in lockstep with John Pullis and Kent White and he rattled some cages as he was being drug along and he successfully broke the momentum to sell the parks. That is why his request was not granted. Had he bowed his head and toed the line and walked quietly along behind, any other infraction real or contrived, would have been forgiven. The line about gender parity requirements did not wash then and later was openly contradicted in how other posts on other boards were filled.
As for Gary's answer... I do not remember that he offered me one. So, You might want to ask him again...
Any way, the sooner we can put all of this behind us and get busy working together to conserve the resources of the county for our grand children, the better. It is not too late for all of us to be the heros who turned the tide on soil erosion and environmental degradation. It is not to late to learn how "to live on a piece of land without spoiling it." Aldo Leopold.