Letter to the Editors: Response to May 31 Letter

Ok, I'll say it out loud:  I'm tired of hearing all the whining. 

I'm referring to the arguments made by Malcolm Peele in his "Open letter to Congressman Walter Jones," published on May 31 in the Ocracoke Current.  Now, before y'all throw a rope over the nearest branch and set up to hang me, let me make my case.  First, I don't think that everything Mr. Peele says is whining.  Some is totally legitimate complaint and I applaud him for addressing those complaints to Congressman Jones.  I'd give his letter about 25 percent "good point, well made" to about 75 percent political diatribe/whining.

As to the good points, it is fair to say that much of the regulation and bureaucracy we have to deal with out here on the Outer Banks is not well considered.  Take for instance prohibiting access to certain sections of the beach known to be the best surf fishing locations.  It would seem to me that, where access in those areas must be restricted, keeping the beach open to the high tide line would still protect critical nesting areas, while conceding that access to prime fishing should be an important part of a balanced plan.  Where the issue is an  imminent turtle hatch, a short term blockage all the way to the breaking waves seems sensible.  The operative words being "short term."  It would also seem appropriate to have volunteers there to scare off the gulls which would probably kill as many hatchlings as a flock of pick up trucks might.  Plus, by monitoring the hatch, access could be reestablished as soon as possible.  I'll volunteer.

That and other examples, notably certain regulations imposed on commercial fishermen that are designed to protect sportfishing enthusiasts, are among the ill-considered regulations we have to deal with.  Another example:  I just bought my beach driving pass last week.  They say it's an annual fee, but I paid full price and it expires on December 31st.  Now that's ill-considered and aggravating.

On the other hand, it is ridiculous to claim that these issues somehow rise to the level of a constitutional crisis.  I suspect the author and others of letting their political ideology drive the discussion right off the deep end.  I've spent time in countries where political and economic liberties were cut short by an oppressive totalitarian government, and neither America today, nor America in six and a half months (no matter which party wins the election), is that kind of place, and honestly, it belittles the struggles of the truly oppressed to compare their fight for survival with our fight to drive on the beach.

Indeed, if you are truly looking for evidence of the erosion of constitutional liberties in America, and you want to do something about it,  I'd think your efforts would be best spent trying to undo those sections of the Patriot Act which allow for imprisonment without charge, something that is contrary, in every sense, to America's most fundamental values.

It is an axiom of conservative political correctness (political rightness?) that government is a tool which the socialist left uses to create a dependent class of voters who will uphold the left's insatiable appetite for ever greater control over individuals' lives. 

I get the argument, but I have some questions.  Wouldn't a consistent conservative position also include opposition to spending 216 million dollars to construct a new bridge over Oregon Inlet?  Or the constant repair of highway 12 whenever it is washed out by a storm?  How about the Ocracoke-Hatteras free ferry? And dredging by the Army Corps to keep the navigable channels open?  In that regard, I've heard complaints from the minimal government crowd – not that the government came in and took action, but that the government didn't come in and take action soon enough!  If we wish to see the government's role in our lives on the Outer Banks through a conservative lens, then shouldn't we be worried that the dependent class might include ourselves?

Here's the problem:  You have every right to complain and complain as loudly and as inconsistently as makes you happy, but your complaints, once politicized, (to mis-quote the song) accentuate the negative and eliminate the positive here on the Outer Banks.  You are convincing tourists and visitors in droves that they will find "do not enter" signs at every access to the beach.  You are convincing the lifeblood of the tourism industry (i.e., tourists) to stay away, and while that may advance your political argument, it does little good and likely great harm to the local economy.

The truth is, great wide open swaths, miles and miles long of some of the most pristine and wild beach on the east coast are open to vehicle access, open to pedestrian access, open for fishing, open for swimming and surfing and sunbathing, sunburning, sandcastle-making, beer drinking, birdwatching, Frisbee-throwing, napping, reading, staring at the horizon, you name it, you can do it - in fact you can even take dogs onto the beach!  Why? Because it's open.  Yes some sections are restricted and some sections are closed, but it's not a conspiracy, it's not terrorism (as has been alleged), it's just what they say it is, an effort to protect the habitat of certain birds and turtles, and it's not the end of freedom in America.  I suggest we remove the politics and decide if the glass is half empty or half full.  My vote is for half full.

Tom Pahl


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