Contrary to some of my friends’ understanding, the July 4th holiday does not revolve around a hot dog- eating contest. All jokes aside, Independence Day is the celebration of the issuance of the Declaration of Independence by the Second Continental Congress on July 4, 1776. The Declaration of Independence, primarily written by Thomas Jefferson, defines the American ideals eloquently, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” This sentence is one of the most iconic statements forming the foundation of our Country. The words created by our founding fathers inspired the greatest country in the world and allowed for the continued evolution and growth of a country to attempt to reach those ideals.
The power of words led me to writing this blog and is part of the inspiration I have felt in my love of flyfishing. Many authors have helped educate and motivate me about fly fishing. I see how the words spoken by leaders, writers, poets, and others can influence, uplift and create new opportunities or points of view. I feel lucky to live in a country where words are allowed to be expressed and lead so many to countless opportunities.
I also experience a sense of freedom when I fish. I am often alone in a beautiful stream valley, with only the sounds of the water flowing and rushing around boulders, the calls of birds and the rustle of wildlife around me. Sometimes I am blessed with the splashes of a jumping fish before I bring it to my net. The solitude combined with my concentration provides me a freedom from stress and builds my peace of mind.
I think the ideals and freedoms of the United States of America are often taken for granted or misunderstood. In this time of turmoil and disconnection, I wanted to feel reconnected to those American ideals. I started by looking up the definitions of Freedom: 1) the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint, or 2) the state of not being imprisoned or enslaved. To me these definitions have many similarities and differences. I was struck with the comparison of those two definitions, as one indicated to me a complete lack of boundaries and the other signified a release from constraint or bondage. Over the course of this week, I’ve continued to try to connect to those ideals by researching poems and quotes about Freedom. I felt connected to these poems and quotes and wanted to share them as part of my blog this week.
Freedom To … by Raymond A. Foss
Ours is a freedom to, not a freedom from, a freedom to service others, to act, in commitment, not merely a freedom from sin, or a freedom from the law, the ancient law, the code of the people God's given grade, the freedom, the sacrifice of the Christ, is a freedom to do, to be, to act in this world, now
Quotes about Freedom
- Freedom makes a huge requirement of every human being. With freedom comes responsibility. For the person who is unwilling to grow up, the person who does not want to carry his own weight, this is a frightening prospect – Eleanor Roosevelt
- I think of heroes as someone who understands the degree of responsibility that comes with his freedom – Bob Dylan
- For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others – Nelson Mandela
The diversity in life experiences and perspectives of these speakers, leaders, and authors all found a connection between freedom and responsibility. I was drawn to this connection. I find myself feeling like this connection is often missed with the divisive political rhetoric, disdain for people who commit to public service, and lack of empathy for others expressed by so many people and in the media these days. To me, the responsibility I feel in respect for the freedom I am given by those who have fought and died for my liberty, manifests itself in my connection between my career, my mindset to try to be open-hearted/minded, and my love of fly fishing. I also connect to the fragility of freedom and how important it is to constantly reaffirm within myself that I am listening to and hearing from others and not solely protecting my own interests.
My ability to have my profession as an environmental scientist is based on federal law and state regulations. Specifically, my career is in part due to the Clean Water Act which defines the regulations that limit the discharges of pollutants into waters of the United States. In its first form, the Clean Water Act was called the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (1942) and then was revised in 1972 and renamed. The Clean Water Act’s objective “is to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation’s waters”. Under the guidance of this regulation water quality has been protected and improved for nearly the last 50 years. This guidance has protected the recreation and livelihood of all of us who love and care about rivers and the fish that live within them. Doing my part to support the Clean Water Act feels like part of my responsibility in return for the freedoms I have been given and the natural resources about which I care.
Another responsibility I feel I need to support is the protection and preservation of national parks, parkland, and our public lands. We are blessed to be part of a country with precious natural resources that provide the ability to connect to nature through recreation and appreciation. An organization that I support that provides a strong voice to the mission to protect public lands is Backcountry Hunters & Anglers. Protecting our national parks and public lands provides a future opportunity for future generations to enjoy nature and to protect the resources our fish and wildlife need to continue and flourish. We, as citizens, have the freedom, right and responsibility to protect these lands which we all own and share. According to The Conservation Alliance, federal public lands are held in trust for all Americans, for the expressed purpose to manage the land for the long-term health of both the land and citizens.
This week I was also fortunate to listen to the Tenkara Cast podcast this week with Daniel Galhardo. His conversation this week was with Cory Shiozaki, the filmmaker who created the movie “The Manzanar Fishing Club”. In 1942 following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Roosevelt enacted Executive Order 9066 which directed that over 117,000 people of Japanese descent, living on the west coast, be interned in military camps. This mass incarceration was undertaken as fear grew associated with potential espionage from Japanese Americans and Japanese nationals living in California. Property was seized and the freedom of these citizens was taken. This isn’t something I remember learning about in school, but I was able to see some documentaries on this internment after college. The filmmaker’s parents were interned at the Manzanar War Relocation Center. His parents never spoke of this period of their lives until Cory learned about the internment in a college history class. After extensive research Cory discovered a club of fishermen and women at the camp, who sought some normalcy and freedom by risking their lives to sneak out of the camp to fish and then returning with their catch. The podcast is excellent, and excerpts from the film I was able to download are exceptional and eye-opening. As I listened and watched, I was amazed. Even with the darkness of that experience and that time in the camps, the interviewed residents were proud of the opportunities they were given in the country and many discussed the sense of hope, freedom and dignity they regained through fishing.
I am grateful to live in our country and to be able to celebrate Independence Day. I am grateful for the freedoms I am granted through the sacrifice of many. I am grateful for the ability to choose my career and to experience the wonder of our environment. I feel a sense of responsibility for that freedom to take care of others and to take care of the environment so that all American citizens now and in the future can have their own experiences in freedom, in life, in liberty and in the pursuit of their happiness. I believe that as a country our best is yet to come if we can learn from the lessons of past missteps and respect, like Raymond Foss, that “ours is a freedom to, not a freedom from.”