I can't imagine that there are much louder events than the crashing noise a meteor makes when it is hitting a planetary object. To look at a crater made by a meteoric impact leads me to assume it is a horrible train wreck of an event. So when the high and mighty go to ground, the noise seems to be equally stunning, especially if you believe in the individual beforehand.
People love to hate hypocrites. When a person or a group allows their reputation to be portrayed as one of honor and good, and then that trust is betrayed, then their actions can be seen as patently hypocritical. Those are the people who do things like run on a platform of family values, only to be shacking up in South America on taxpayer funds. Or doggedly pursuing impeachment of a President for being adulterous while engaging in their own adulterous affair. Or the religious who rail about the wrongs of homosexuality, only to be having a few of those relationships on their own. One of my least favorite college football coaches, who has led under the premise of being forthright and wholesome after his claims that he knew nothing; Well, maybe he knew a little more than nothing. And of course, there is this Weiner saga that continues to keep playing.
Since the firefighter is held to be an example of virtue, bravery, and service in the name of the community good, when one of us fails, we can expect it to get serious play. And in this day and age where so many people are looking for heroes, when we get it wrong, we get it wrong in a big way. The backlash continues to flow as it seems like from one day to the next, one or more of our own pulls a new rabbit out of the hat and ends up with their mug shot splashed across the front page.
I also like to read the comments in the stories as Statter and Firegeezer where a number of our brethren sanctimoniously proclaim the fallen as garbage and a disgrace to the uniform. But really, here's where it really gets ugly. Check out the comments on this article from the Las Vegas Sun. You can also check out the whole story there as well, but one look at the comments and you can see that the idea of the public singing our praises as "heroes" has been replaced by angry, bitter tirades against what we do not only while not running alarms, but even while providing our service. And I don't even know what it is that these guys may or may not have done to draw this kind of fire. I don't know that they did anything wrong or they have just found themselves poorly positioned in the center of a taxpayer backlash against spending.
Just yesterday, my own organization happened to be fighting a decent sized brush fire in a residential area. With all of the coverage of the devastation in the Arizona wildfires you'd think citizens would be praising a fast, aggressive response; instead, at least one TV news report (not the one cited) pointed out the "inconvenience" of residents not being allowed to their homes until the fire was declared under control, and I corresponded and talked with a few people with very similar complaints. Fortunately, all of my interactions were positive and once explained, the individuals were at least a little more grateful. But what we have always taken for granted (that the citizens see us as positive, upstanding members of the community), has been replaced in many jurisdictions as our being selfish, lazy, and out-of-control.
There's enough ugly to go around right now without our own people bringing it down upon us. It is up to each and every one of us to weed out those who continue to give emergency service a bad name with their negative attitudes, their arrogant behavior, and their me-first mentalities. The good name and the "hero" portrait of emergency service, like it or not, came about because we put it on the line for our neighbors, we genuinely cared about our community and serving others, and because we were always seen as hard-working, blue collar people. When a firefighter said something, they shot straight, but it was said with concern and compassion. We have always been about getting the job done, no matter what, no matter how dirty or dangerous, but without bitching or complaining or pointing out each others' faults. This is not how we work today.
Let the politicians, TV preachers, Wall Street CEOs and the other scumbags be the hypocrites and punching bags. Each of us should be serving as a positive example of how to do this job, volunteer or career, and without acting like a bunch or amateurs and whackers. Man up (that includes our sister firefighters as well) and do the job, and while you need to educate the public in what we do and how they interact with us to provide a team approach, don't call attention to yourself for doing it. Just do the right thing and we'll all be fine.
Also on Firehouse Zen …
- Added Value – August 5, 2013
- Avoiding the Violence of Dysfunction – August 27, 2013
- Loyalty and Trust – July 16, 2012
- Mourning The Loss of Free Speech, Ham-Handed Chiefs, and How We Got Here – November 16, 2012