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FIRST-PERSON: Modern-day patriots taking a stand in the Klamath Basin

MCMINNVILLE, Ore. (BP)–Most people enjoy going to the zoo. It is fascinating to watch wild animals in such close proximity. There is never any anxiety about standing a few yards from a lion or a bear, because there is a comfortable barrier keeping the viewer safe. All in all, a trip to the zoo is a non-threatening outing.

Remove the bars and motes that provide protection from the animals, and a visit to the zoo would become an entirely different experience. No longer separated by distance, one would be forced to deal with the power and force of a wild animal “up close and personal.” At the very least, an excursion to a zoo without barriers would be a life-changing event.

In the same way, many people enjoy reading about the patriots who founded the United States. It is enlightening to study the biographies of men like George Washington, Patrick Henry and Nathan Hale. Their quotes still find their way into speeches and writings today.

Time works as a buffer between we in the 21st century and the patriots of old, in the same way barriers do in the zoo. We enjoy reading about the brave men and women who risked their lives to fan the flames of liberty. We are enthralled by their courage and sacrifice. However, let the barrier of time disappear, and those with patriot conviction are not always so welcome.

A patriot is an individual who has grave respect for the traditions that have made America unique in the world. Commitment to family, duty to God and country, hard work, honesty and an intense desire to do right are but a few of the convictions embodied by such people. One ideal that is common to all patriots is that freedom is a reality worth sacrificing for.

Patriotism has become a dirty word to many in our nation. People who have the audacity to stand up for the core values of the Constitution are often viewed as “right-wing nuts” by mainstream America. The same people who respect the founding fathers for their courageous stand often look down their noses at present-day patriots for doing the same thing.

I recently spent time rubbing elbows with people I consider present-day patriots. They are the men and women who inhabit the Klamath Basin in southernmost Oregon. Since April these stalwart people have struggled under the oppressive application of the Endangered Species Act, which has resulted in insufficient water for the region’s farmers.

Irrigation rights promised by the federal government almost a century ago were curtailed in early spring to protect the endangered suckerfish. A few weeks ago, water was allowed to flow because Upper Klamath Lake held more water than was earlier estimated. It was too little too late. The damage was already done and nothing could save the parched crops. The current flow of water is to cease by federal order today, Aug. 23: The lake level will reach the “minimum” that is required to preserve the suckerfish.

To say the farmers in the Klamath Basin are frustrated would be an understatement. However, to their credit, they have conducted themselves with grace and dignity. Prayer has been a cornerstone for many. They have diligently sought to bring about change within the system. To date, there have been no incidents of violence.

When the water is shut off on Aug. 23, some are vowing to challenge the federal government. In a show of civil disobedience, farmers plan to take control of the head gates that regulate the flow of water into the irrigation canal. Only God knows what the outcome will be.

When you hear about these individuals in the days to come, will you see radical right-wingers reacting irrationally, or will you see patriots standing on their convictions? If you had the opportunity to look them in the eyes as I have, I am certain your perception would be greatly affected. Remember patriotism, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.
Boggs’ column appears each Friday in Baptist Press. He is pastor of Valley Baptist Church, McMinnville, Ore.

    About the Author

  • Kelly Boggs