Competition or Cooperation

Our son’s farm in eastern Washington contains an old mill shed out in the pasture. At one time in the past water was diverted from the Palouse River to power machinery. Today the shed serves mainly as a perch for three very different large birds. At any one time you might see, standing on the corner of the roof like a roof decoration, an Osprey, a Great Blue Heron, or a Bald Eagle. All three are there because of the river, because they are fish-eaters. All three perch on the same spot, but for different reasons. The heron is a wading feeder. It perches there to dry feathers, and to keep an eye on a stretch of river that needs to be jealously guarded against other encroaching herons. The Osprey dives after fish. It perches there to dry feathers as well, but the corner is also a convenient launching point for future fishing forays. The Bald Eagle fishes by snatching fish out of the top foot or so of water. This bird perches there for reasons similar to the Osprey, but it will also hunt land-based prey, so the shed is a hunting perch as well.

All of them consume fish. All of them like to perch there. Are they in competition or are the niches they occupy in the environment different enough that they inadvertently share a common perch in a kind of unconscious cooperation? I think the answer lies in where you’re standing. In that they all eat fish one could say that they are in competition for a common food source. In that they utilize the environment in different ways you could say that they are cooperating together (even if beyond conscious awareness) to maintain a healthy habitat. It’s like splitters and lumpers—it depends on your perspective which is probably based on other criteria.

So, are the caravans of folks making their way toward the US/Mexico border in competition or cooperation with the ideals and interests of the United States? Are the various sources of information giving it to us straight or massaging the information to given political ends? It most likely depends on your perspective which is probably based on other criteria. One thing is clear, however. We choose how we see it, and we can change how we choose. We can make this a humanitarian disaster, or we can work to get all voices at the table to figure out a response that reflects the best of the American people and not the worst.

The choice is ours.

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