PERRY SWISHER: IDAHO’S ELDER
It’s just too damned bad that Perry Swisher isn’t here to write this editorial. He’d do a much better job.
Swisher died Wednesday at age 88, a lifespan that saw three-quarters of Idaho’s history unfold. He was one of the few people to live in each region of this state. Born in Bruneau. A fixture in Pocatello. An editor in Lewiston. A legislator and public servant in Boise.
Swisher served about a dozen years in the Idaho Legislature between 1952 and 1978 — four terms in the House, two in the Senate. Five terms as a Republican, one as a Democrat. All from Bannock County.
He ran as an independent for governor in the fabled 1966 election, pulling 31,000 votes in a campaign that elected Republican Don Samuelson and positioned Democrat Cecil D. Andrus for a second bid four years later.
Others accumulated longer legislative longevity or climbed the chairs to higher office. Yet they became anonymous almost from the moment they retired from office. People are still talking about Swisher.
Swisher went on to serve on Idaho’s Public Utilities Commission — an important post, though hardly one that breeds name familiarity for its members, except for him.
Idaho has seen several top-flight editors and reporters, usually based in Boise, whose names were forgotten the minute they retired or relocated to other markets. Why was Swisher’s byline still recognizable years after he retired?
Some would say it was his style. It was barbed and caustic, but often dead-on. Others would say it was his uncanny ability to see what was coming next — whether it was the promise of fiber optics, the coming migration of people who would move into Idaho in the 1990s, or the fact that so many of them would shift Idaho’s political nexus to the right.
In the end, Swisher didn’t become a governor, a congressman or senator. Swisher wasn’t directing the state’s main news gathering organizations.
But Swisher is remembered because of his dedication to causes — often unpopular — and to his community, not to himself.
Agree with him or not, people recognized authenticity in Swisher.
A rare quality then, it’s almost extinct today.
EXPERIENCE EARTH 1.0; PROTECT WILDERNESS
Idaho Mountain Express, Ketchum
Two kinds of people inhabit the United States: people who know the nation needs more federally designated wilderness and people who don’t know — yet.
Idaho Rep. Mike Simpson knows, and that’s why he’s championed the creation of a Boulder-White Clouds wilderness area for more than a decade.
Former Idaho Gov. Cecil Andrus knows. That’s why he’s called on the president to use his power under the Antiquities Act of 1906 to make the area a national monument.
Yet, their advocacy hasn’t carried the day on an issue that’s languished in the partisan ponds of Washington, D.C., politics.
The clock is ticking, and not only for Simpson who won’t be in Congress forever. It’s ticking down on a human population in danger of forgetting that it needs spaces free from the hand of man for its own physical and mental health.
The ubiquity of electronic devices today makes it difficult for people to get off their backsides and into a pair of hiking shoes for an encounter with Earth version 1.0. This version has no electrical outlets, no glowing screens, no Facebook, no YouTube and no texting, sexting, tweeting, MP3 playing or gaming.
With Earth 1.0, minds don’t operate on overload. They float, observe, wander and rest while human muscle and bone do the work. Stress drops away like paint peeling from an overheated wall.
Protecting wilderness requires more than lines on a map. It requires giving new generations contact with Earth 1.0 — the 3-D Milky Way, crashing creeks, high, ridged walls and sturdy creatures of the Boulder and White Clouds mountains — as intimate as their contact with their computer keyboards and touch screens.
The research is in. We must protect wilderness so that wilderness can protect us from ourselves.