Freedom means responsibility to save a dream

Passing the legacy from one generation to the next has been an outdoors tradition; but it’s under attack.
Terry Madewell/Clarendon Citizen - Passing the legacy from one generation to the next has been an outdoors tradition; but it’s under attack.

From My Perspective:

Celebrating a Fourth of July evening and watching a fireworks display, I exercised my freedom of thought and took a few moments to reflect on what the day truly means to me. As I did those mental pushups, I pondered the purpose of the independence, freedom and liberty we enjoy in America. I then focused on the responsibilities we have as adult outdoorsmen in our pursuit of happiness in the outdoor world.

Among the freedoms we should celebrate include the right to enjoy our outdoor world as we personally deem appropriate. That enjoyment is all-inclusive in terms of having the right to enjoy it in a consumptive or non-consumptive manner. Or even not at all.

But with the right to do something you cherish comes the responsibility to ensure it continues. I love to take youngsters fishing and hunting and enjoy passing the outdoors legacy to the next generation. But we may have to do more than pass on the love of the outdoors, that’s the easy and fun part. We now must defend our privilege to pursue our outdoor dreams and our right to bear arms. Passing the legacy from one generation to the next has been an outdoors tradition, but it’s now an endangered freedom.

I refer specifically to the freedom to hunt and fish, but it actually goes beyond those endeavors. It really is about personal choice.

Not everyone believes that we should be allowed the freedom and the independence to make our own choices and the political arena is a major battlefield. There are many efforts now being formulated and played out that could eventually, perhaps sooner than later, rob us of the very rights we hold sacred to our way of life. Elimination of hunting and fishing are priority targets for many who would take away our freedom to make our own choice. It is easy to say that we care about these freedoms, but it requires effort to do something about it.

A shift of gears needs to occur in the practice of protecting our rights. The Second Amendment is often taken for granted. Truth is, it is under strong attack. Several frontal assaults have been attempted and so far thwarted. There will be more. However, it is the back door we may need to be watching. Seemingly, small wins by those who would impose their will on us by using the legislative process will have a cumulative impact.

Make no mistake about it; the “anti’s” are coming after our rifles, shotguns, handguns, archery and even fishing equipment. Once they get the guns, the sticks and feathers and the fishing rods and reels will be much easier to take. Momentum is a powerful ally and we can’t afford a shift in momentum and power.

Those who attack us are not smarter than outdoorsmen and women. In terms of putting forth good-sounding arguments, not necessarily based on facts, they are extremely resilient. It is a fact that harvesting game and fish under specific rules and guidelines is biologically sound and has proven to be so, but this fight isn’t about facts. And that’s where we need to step it up.

Those who would rob us of our rights do not care about our opinions, rights or the biology of fish and game. It is their beliefs they wish to impose and that is the issue. They have turned an asset of our very nature into a weakness they can exploit.

As sportsmen, we want to play fair. It is inherent in hunting and fishing that the “fair chase” of harvesting fish or game is an integral component of our core philosophy. We are content to let others feel that hunting and fishing are things they choose not to do, as long as they allow us the freedom to choose to hunt and fish.

Many are not in harmony with that thought process. I’ve watched through the years where they have slowly gained ground and gained popularity with many Americans who generally do not take either side in the pro or con of hunting and fishing. It is that swing vote they are pursuing. They can’t swing our mindset to their side and we are content if they choose to not hunt or fish. They are pursuing the masses to eventually force their beliefs down our throats, and that gags me.

For the anti-hunting and fishing clan to succeed, it’s simply a matter of time, attrition and too little resistance from us. Eventually they hope to win simply by their ability to get up one more time than they are knocked down. Call it the “Rocky” mentality, but it should be our strength, not theirs.

Outdoorsmen say they will fight for their rights, but have we really been doing all we can as organized groups or as individuals? This is not a commercial for the National Rifle Association (NRA) but without organizations and lobbying efforts such as this, we likely would have already lost major battles, if not the war.

Our right to bear arms and to continue to hunt and fish is a political war. It’s time to take individual responsibility to win the battles. I support and applaud the role of pro-outdoors organizations. They provide a thread of unity if we tap into it.

We have congressional leaders who need to hear our voice in person or by letter, text, phone, email or tweet. We have some extremely important elections coming up this fall. We need to educate ourselves on who really supports and believes in the core values we hold dear at all political levels. Fair or not, the political arena is where the battles will be waged and the war won or lost.

It is time to stand unified, yet take action as individuals, to defend the rights we sometimes take for granted. We are almost out of time.

Ultimately, as it has always been in our great nation, it will come down to individual Americans taking responsibility and taking a stand for what is right. As all the wars in our great nation’s history have confirmed, freedom isn’t free. And we will have to fight in the political arena for our outdoor freedoms.

If we all take individual responsibility in these issues, the impact will be of such huge uniformity it will generate the difference for the next generation. I plan to leave the hunting and fishing legacy intact for our sons, daughters and grandchildren. I want them to take me fishing and hunting as I grow old.

We can impart to today’s youth the outdoor skills, kindle the passion and watch them grow and yearn for their own outdoor adventures as they mature. Their right – and ours – to pursue those outdoor dreams will vanish in a fog of apathy if we do not take quick action.