Editorial: Puritanism and cry me a Kishwaukee
By Frank Schier
Editor & Publisher
Many people, when commenting about the complete alcohol ban at the launch points of Baumann Park and any Winnebago County Forest Preserve (WCFPD) access points on the Kishwaukee River, have made reference to the “Puritan” character of the Prohibition (which failed in 1933). It’s OLD, already!
My favorite quote concerning this sect is by a literary critic and newspaperman of the last century, H.L. Mencken: “Puritanism. The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.”
While some goons, Neanderthals and modern bezerkers have been loud (as most drunks are), careless (as trash-throwing slobs) and breast flashers (as on the Wisconsin Apple River) do threaten public safety, most of the voyagers on the Kishwaukee River are just trying to be happy.
Gloom, doom and control freaks might also ban any alcohol along streets because people drink, drive, trash and die. Obviously, not everyone does, so why is WCPFD outrageously searching — without a warrant — seizing — without a court order, the EVIL contents of Ma & Pa Kettle’s cooler! Tidy up that tube, you giddy slob, and don’t you dare hook together those airbeds because only the Devil knows what happens!
So, to address the reality of floating, on one of the Illinois “Class A” rivers, as they do on the Wisconsin River, levy a $500 fine for any littering (tipovers must be considered) with general refuse, bottles or cans. And for true morons about to drown, levy a $500 fine for lewd, belligerent and drunken public behavior. In all fairness, warning tickets should be issued for this season (barring obvious needs for arrest), and these fines should be enforced next year. Or do we want to chase away all eco-(God forbid it should be fun) tourism?
Local business people tell me, last weekend, most of the forest preserves on the Kish were empty. No sales; no sales taxes. So, what if you pay property taxes for the WCFPD. The word is Executive Director Tom Kalousek signed off on the ban with Cherry Valley, and the board didn’t even vote on the issue — your elected government and tax dollars righteously at work to make your fun miserable.
And to the humorless and thin-skinned, it is not my fault you chose the name: Friends of the Kishwaukee River. Yes, the acronym is FOTKR. It is funny. You pushed this ban with the Village of Cherry Valley and WCFPD, and now don’t want it to be known or own it as to who each of you are, after the huge disaster it has become. I understand. Some people do want to keep certain things, rivers, to themselves. I understand. Nonetheless, happily and sadly, the Fockers in the movies and FOTKR do share many traits. We’ll see how many come out at the WCFPD meeting, June 20.
Again, I’ll close with another gem by Mencken: “The objection to Puritans is not that they try to make us think as they do, but that they try to make us do as they think.” Makes me wanna cry, again, or laugh. I’m not sure.
From the June 20-26, 2012, issue
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