Home Around Town Blue Star
Blue Star

Blue Star


By Scott Sullivan


Words, Birds, Absurds

What do you tell your 18-year-old daughter in a world where:

  • Larry Nassar preys on girls for years? Why were Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics institutions more important than individuals?
  • Debates are framed so it’s Saugatuck vs. Douglas vs. Saugatuck Township vs. the Saugatuck Township Fire District … on and on? I want all of us to flourish.
  • Douglas discriminates against roosters? Just six days before the City of the Village hosted a 700-plus person Women’s March meant to show support for the rights of all people, council amended its animal ordinance to allow keeping up to four backyard chickens, but no roosters. Nor turkeys, peacocks or other fowl.

One marcher six days later toted a “Trump 2020” sign, which I liked. We should be inclusive. But where were the “Roosters have rights too” placards?

Sure, roosters are nasty birds. You’d be too if females of your species laid eggs without you. There’s a reason cockfights date back more than 6,000 years, before even politics.

Still, what will Douglas banning them do? I’ll tell you: make roosters madder. Nothing stings like rejection. Healing starts with acceptance.

The good news: council is allowing no more than five permits in year one of a “pilot program” to see if backyard chickens fly. If successful and the C. of the V. becomes even more like Green Acres, with poultry everywhere clucking happily, they may extend and expand their ordinance.

Picture chickens, roosters, turkeys, peacocks, ostriches, vultures and so on coexisting peacefully along Fremont (or is that “Freemont”? Signs an be confusing) Street, Schultz (or is that “Shultz”? Park Drive, etc.

Here’s another problem: xenophobia. What about efforts to drive out non-native species: Asian carp, Oriental bittersweet, Japanese knotweed and so on? What happened to “Give me your tired, your poor”?

I get it: these species multiply quickly, choking out native life forms, harming ecological balance and diversity. (Of course humans are exempted. If we proliferate, level habitats and drive out other species, that’s just natural selection.)

The latest is mute swans. At its next meeting Feb. 7 the Saugatuck Township Board will host — in addition to criticism from Saugatuck city and fire officials, some of it earned — a U.S. Wildlife biologist’s request for Kalamazoo River access at River Bluff Park to remove more than 50 mute swans reported on nearby Tyler Bayou. “Remove” means more than destroying nests and eggs. Swans may be harmed in the process too.

Maybe they have it coming. However graceful and poetic mute swans may seem, authorities say they are threats by land, sea and air.

Think you’re safe on land? They eat vegetation that causes shoreline erosion and deprives other wildlife of food and habitat. In the water they attack boats and outcompete native trumpeter swans (they’re the ones with black beaks, not orange, and no knobs on their foreheads). In the sky, airplanes hit them.

Mute swans are not bad like Larry Nassar. But not good either.

Michigan has more of the birds than any other state or province in North America. This has ruffled feathers in Great Lakes neighbors like Indiana, Wisconsin, Ohio and Ontario.

Cry me a river, I say. Why should Michiganians cave to Hoosiers, Cheeseheads, Buckeyes, Canucks or Friends of Other Waterfowl?

Nonetheless, our Department of Natural Resources has joined U.S. Wildlife seeking to manage mute swan populations, i.e. kill a bunch of them.

About 30 years ago Irving, who owned Irving’s Restaurant in North Muskegon, joined me and others trying to corral someone’s pet swan that got loose in the marshes behind his restaurant. We failed but our efforts were so comic they were worth it.

Now swan management is far more directed and scientific. Absurdity is not factored out; it’s just shifted inward to motivations.

I tell my daughter that evil is everywhere. Good too. People make mistakes. Life can be confusing and redeeming.

Choose to laugh, love and lift, I say.