Monday, February 18, 2013

Deafening Silence

I have been working on a very big project, and have not been able to focus at all on new content for Kline Online. This is something I wrote this summer for work, new content for Kline Online readers.

I was driving down a back road on Maryland’s Eastern Shore when I pulled my truck over to let a tractor pass. The farmer tipped his hat in appreciation and was on his way to the next field. Before heading down the road myself, I took a look around; fields of crops gave way to the Chester River in the distance and a place I am proud to call home.

With tall corn and soy hiding goose pits and the vivid summer woods obscuring tree stands, it is tough to see the importance of hunting during a hot and humid Chesapeake summer. But just a few months from now, the days will get shorter and crisper, and homes across the Eastern Shore will come to life earlier than normal as decoy bags and gun cases are tossed into trucks and Labs wag their tails with the kind of anticipation only a gun dog can muster.

Waterfowl hunting means a lot to this part of the world. On the highway into town, geese adorn the welcome sign, and we have waterfowl festivals to celebrate the autumnal return of the birds. You may find yourself raking leaves in the backyard or picking out the perfect carving pumpkin at the local patch when you hear your first flight of Canada geese returning. It is a sound that compels your eyes skyward and makes many of us reflexively reach for our goose calls.

But the memory of the 2011-12 season remains stark in the minds of many hunters. Winter’s cold weather never came; nor did the birds. Some estimated that less than one quarter of the typical population actually made it as far south as the Chesapeake. The lack of snow and ice gave the birds no reason to venture to their normal southern grounds. The warmest winter anyone can remember gave way to the warmest summer, and hunters can’t be blamed for asking, “Will the birds return?”

More than a few hunters I’ve talked to are considering letting their blind leases lapse.

“I’m gonna give it one more year,” is a familiar refrain from waterfowlers pinched by a slow economy and slow days afield. Visit Higgy’s Diner on any Saturday morning during duck and goose season and you will see just what hunting means to the local economy. It’s not just about license and ammo sales; hunters open their wallets at motels, gas stations, watering holes and sub shops, as well as for guides and gear. As the birds go, so go the hunters.

Conservation is an essential part of hunting’s past – and future. Whether addressing global issues like climate change or local issues such as land use, hunters have a responsibility to become knowledgeable and participate in finding workable solutions. If the voices of hunters fall silent, it won’t be long before the voice of the waterfowl we cherish goes quiet as well.

Monday, February 04, 2013

Chrysler's Military Profiteering.

As anyone who knows me knows, I am a huge fan of the Baltimore Ravens. Have been since they moved to Baltimore in 1996. I remember vividly the first Super Bowl we won, in 2001. And I will remember the one we won last night. Another great night for my native city, where I had the good fortune to watch the game with family.

As anyone who knows me can also attest, I am not one for commercials, don't watch much TV besides. I don't get as geared up for the Super Bowl commercials as some others might, and certainly not in a year when my team is playing in the game. I need the commercial breaks to settle myself down emotionally.

But one advertisement, from a car company, caught my eye. It was from Jeep, a company owned by Chrysler. As you may know, Jeeps were originally created for military use in World War II, but it is important to note that Chrysler has never made a Jeep for military use, and only bought the Jeep name in 1987. For some time now, the Jeep has been strictly a civilian automobile, limited mostly to steep driveways and puddle-strewn back roads, with no use in the modern American armed forces.

It is nothing new to use emotion, and good old fashioned national pride, to sell everything from baseball gloves to pickup trucks. I understand this as a fundamental tenant of advertising. But I found Chrysler's "America Will Be Whole Again" advertisement for Jeep to be supremely objectionable, crossing an ethical line that blurred Chrysler's commercial interests with the very real sacrifice made by those who serve in the American military. Selling Jeeps requires no sacrifice, we should not allow Chrysler to co-opt the real sacrifice made by fighting men and women.

Taking advantage of this country's pride in our men and women in uniform, to wantonly commercialize the emotion of waiting for a loved one to come home, to wantonly commercialize the sacrifice made by millions of veterans and active duty soilders and their families, all in what I hope is a vain attempt to sell more cars, is proof of the further erosion of corporate common sense in this nation. This is the modern day equivalent of war profiteering.

The thought that some marketing pinhead thought it would be okay to imply that somehow we, as Americans, could better honor the troops by buying a Jeep, and that some (and likely several) bigwigs at Chrysler gave this project the green light, should be enough to turn every single veteran, past and future, against the Chrysler Corporation.

If our military is indeed something to be cherished, to be honored, as Chrysler/Jeep and Oprah implied for two minutes of million dollar airtime, then it begs the question, why was a car company, who not five years ago received the generous support of the American public, allowed to sully that institution with base commercialism?  

You can see the commercial here