David Phillips: Freedom comes with responsibility

David Phillips/Bluff Country Newspaper Group A partially-full refrigerator stands in the parking lot of a rural recycling drop-off site.
David Phillips
Reflections from my Notebook
An old refrigerator stood in the parking lot of the rural recycling drop-off center on the edge of Spring Valley Friday. The door was ajar as trays spilled out and food containers, such as mayonnaise jars and salad dressing bottles, littered the ground around the unit.
This could be another story about idiots who think it is perfectly OK to dump their unwanted items anywhere as long as it is off their property. However, the thing that struck me about this incident was the response of local citizens.
While I was in a local store Friday, a woman came up to me to complain about this infraction she had seen earlier that day. She had even taken a photograph of the refrigerator, pulling out her phone to show me the sight and asking me if I could do anything about it.
By the time I got home that evening, a man had sent me a message with attached photographs of the same sight. He joked that he would like to volunteer as a security person to stop this illegal dumping.
I’m sure there were other upset people who didn’t bump into a journalist or think to contact the local newspaper about this incident, even if it bothered them.
It’s encouraging that people care enough to seek ways to combat this bad behavior. It would be easy for people to figure it’s the problem of Fillmore County, which sets up several sites for rural people to drop off recyclables closer to their homes, or shrug their shoulders with the belief that it’s just the way it is and it will never change.
As we celebrate out independence on July 4, it is important to remember that freedom isn’t a license for people to do whatever they want. Each of us is part of a larger community, or society, that helps protect all our rights, as well as our health, safety and well-being. That’s why there are rules in place.
Although some people think they are above the law, it is a tiny minority. Most people are good citizens who cringe when they see these brazen acts. 
So many people look at America and see the nation in decline. The photo of the illegal dumping could be used to prove that theory.
Yet, the fact that so many people reacted strongly to the transgression and sought a resolution shows something else — an American spirit driven by pride of our country and respect for the laws that try to protect our land from people who want to trash it.
As far as the more practical aspect of this issue, which is why people contacted me, there are some things people can do to curb illegal dumping, although there is no perfect solution to this problem. Fillmore County solid waste administrator Andrew Hatzenbihler told me this is an “ongoing problem” as dumping occurs at the recycling sites as well as along roads in the county. His department doesn’t have the staff or time to watch over the sites.
Although Friday’s incident wasn’t reported to him, his staff did see the refrigerator later that day when making the rounds, something done regularly before a holiday week to make sure anything illegal is removed. That is so local residents with more free time or others visiting the county for festivities don’t think this is an acceptable location to deposit unwanted items.
As far as helping with determent, he said if people spot someone dumping non-recyclables, they should tell that individual it isn’t acceptable. Another option is to write down the vehicle license number and call his department (507-765-4704) to report the incident.
In some cases, the county has been able to track down offenders through tracking identifiable items left or contacting the manufacturer. Workers at the nearby highway shop have also reported offenders they have seen.
Our system isn’t perfect, but America has a pretty good thing going, even more than two centuries after establishing its independence. Celebrate your individual freedom this July 4, but don’t forget your social responsibility so we can all be free to take part in our own pursuit of happiness.