If not now, when?
Born in the late 60’s, I’m part of a broad-based American generation often referred to as Generation X. We are the 30- and 40-somethings who entered the world after the Baby Boom era during a 20-year span between 1961 and 1981, sometimes referred to as the “baby bust” generation.
Raised during a veritable spiritual awakening in the 60’s and 70’s, I grew up in the years of, and the decade following, the Vietnam War, my mind’s eye forever etched with the images of those Baby Boomers before who burned their bras and draft cards, rallied against the war, and marched on the National Mall in a call for peace, civil rights, and the end of world oppression and apartheid.
From the time that I was a teenager through my idealistic 20’s, I’d often wondered aloud about the 60’s and 70’s youth rebellion, and whether I would’ve chosen to have become a part of the movement. A disciple of classic rock and the words and lyrics that energized a cultural era, I’d often lay in bed at night with the headphones on and the turntable skipping across a well-worn Dylan or Doors album, pondering the very thought of organized protest and my own place in the democratic process.
Now a married man of 42, with two kids at home, bills to pay and the vinyl records stowed away in boxes (those headphones replaced by earbuds) I still occasionally wonder if any national or global conflict would ever so consume me with anger and frustration, enough that my stomach burned with passion and my heart brimming resolve. Could my own government’s repressive actions or gross inaction ever lead me to throw open the doors of dissent, to scream from the pulpit and take to the streets in formal protest? In my lifetime, could I ever find a common cause with like-minded individuals across the generational divide, to unite as one and rally on the steps of the Capitol in a grand celebration of the First Amendment’s promise to allow any and all Americans “peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
Today, my fellow saltwater angler, I offer you a personal invitation to democracy and dissent. Our federal government has ignored our plight, while closed-door preservationists have shut us out of the conservation equation, and in turn the entire democratic process. Our time to act has come, and our reason to come together is clear - united we fish.
Many of our national sportfishing associations, conservation groups, multi-national tackle corporations and industry trade alliances have buttoned-up in the face of the preservationist movement, convening privately in their corporate boardrooms while battening down the hatches during our economic disaster, preferring instead to try to ride out the storm of anti-fishing pressure from non-governmental environmental organizations. Left behind to carry the flag and rally the troops are the individual anglers, shop owners, boat dealers, dockmasters, captains and ‘mom & pop’ businesses who’ve been scratching and clawing at every last scrap of access to a once public resource.
We are the stakeholders in the coastal communities, we are the fishermen who understand most about the future sustainability of our fisheries, and we are the people who make up the human resource portion of our marine fisheries.
For my generation, this may be our only opportunity ever “peaceably to assemble,” to stand together before Congress in an organized, respectful protest for our right to free and open access. For our coastal fishing communities nationwide, it is most certainly feels like the last chance we have to preserve more 300 years of heritage and tradition.
On February 24th, 2010, the saltwater fishermen of America will stand united on the steps of the Capitol in a call on legislators to recognize our right to fish. At risk is public access for more than 12 million saltwater anglers, and the lifeblood of our coastal communities that rely on a healthy, sustained fishery. For the first time in American history, the nation’s saltwater fishermen – both commercial and recreational alike – will stand together as one upon the grand international stage of freedom, Area Number One between Constitution and Independence Avenues in Washington DC.
From Generation X, to the Baby Boomers and our parents and grandparents from the Greatest Generation, I hope you will all join me for this historic event in defense of our right to fish. Once-in-a-lifetime doesn’t come around again.