The government in Washington is like the moon: It has two sides, the one facing Earth, and the one that remains hidden from view — or the dark side, as some prefer calling it.
That comparison has been especially easy to see in the ongoing, ever-worsening conflict involving America's commercial fishermen and a handful of top-level branches, agencies, and representatives of the federal government.
The White House, Commerce Department, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA Fisheries and Minerals Management Service, all seem happy backers of a campaign spearheaded by NOAA fisheries commandant Jane Lubchenco, the NOAA chief whose goal is to forcefully drive a "significant fraction" of the domestic commercial fishing fleet off the nation's coastal waters forever.
If successful, Dr. Lubchenco's thinly-veiled declaration of war against New England fishermen may well reduce what's left of Gloucester's current fleet — some 80 boats — to a few dozen, and even those would be in danger of being swallowed up by the powerful forces of consolidation that Lubchenco and her Inner-Beltway Axis partners are so intent on making happen these days.
What chance, one might ask, do fishermen have against so powerful an adversary as the government? Little to none, but for one factor — not everyone in Washington has swallowed the "Save the Fish, Eliminate the Fishermen" lure that Field Marshall Lubchenco has been using to net support in her rapidly escalating war against America's commercial fishermen.
Though it would be premature to refer to congressional heavyweights John Kerry, Scott Brown, Barney Frank and John Tierney as "champions" of New England fishermen and their numerous related industries, all must be credited for having chosen to wade at least knee-deep into a bitter and divisive battle that now has nearly every fisherman from the northern tip of Maine to the southernmost part of Connecticut, and far beyond, fighting for their very existence.
Make no mistake, use here of the word "war" to describe the current fisheries conflict is not only intentional, it's also entirely justifiable. After all, a torpedo is not the only device capable of sinking a boat, or even an entire fleet. Laws, rules, and regulations can also be written and enforced that produce the same result.
For those of us who earn our livelihoods on dry land, the pounding America's fishermen have been taking at the hands of an out-of-control federal bureaucracy might as well be taking place on the dark side of the moon.
But that's only because we, the public, have chosen not to get engaged, not to know, not to get involved in this unconscionably bitter dispute.
Avoiding involvement by staying home and reading a book or watching television may seem the safe thing to do. But turning away from the conflict that is presently going on directly outside our living room windows here in Gloucester and other fishing communities only allows the dark forces in society to gain ever-greater influence and control over our everyday lives.
America's fishermen are the victims of a ruthless government conspiracy, the objective of which isn't conservation or protection of the nation's fisheries, as publicly stated, but rather the consolidation and redistribution of the ocean's richly varied natural resources among a small but select number of the world's wealthiest and most powerful corporate bidders.
It's fishermen who are the latest victims of this heartless aggression. What remains to be seen, is who and what small businesses and industries will be targeted next?
Even though no blood has yet been shed, it's still a war, and a brutal one at that. So, where's the greater resistance?
Jim Munn is a frequent Times' contributor, and boys' track & field coach at Gloucester High School.