Monday, July 4, 2011

Rocket's Red Glare

No, this isn't about the American national anthem. I needed an excuse to post a photo from our Canada Day fireworks show to prove that I finally figured out my camera phone . . . and "Rockets Red Glare" makes a cool title.

It's been a long time since I went to grade school in the States, but I still remember this:

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

The meaning behind most of those words was lost to my elementary mind, but I do remember wondering why the nation was invisible. I did feel the pride and patriotism that was woven into the fabric of American society, at least in that era. My first writing success was an essay entitled, "What America Means to Me." Even at the ripe age of 6, I knew the buzzwords about liberty and freedom and oppression . . . and I took the five dollar prize for the essay contest.

[side note: One more dollar added to the prize gave me enough cash to pay my half of a used bicycle. My parents paid the other half. The American Dream was beginning . . .].

The volunteer fire service could use a dose of old-time, American-style loyalty to a cause . . . our cause, specifically. Chad Sartison touches on this idea in his recent blog post over at Firefighters1st. He questions whether volunteer firefighters have the same sense of brotherhood as our career counterparts. It's a thorny pill to swallow, but I have to agree. Many of us live in isolated areas, which contributes to our polarized points of view. Help is far away, and our perception is that the outside world can or will do little for us, so why should we care about anyone else. This disengagement between departments is a deep and complex problem that I've mulled over for many years. As usual, I'm long on problems but short on answers.

It isn't that we don't like each other, or that we don't care. It's just that we also like our jobs and families, and we care about all the other responsibilities that crowd into our lives. We do have a connection. Volunteer firefighters stop by the hall from time to time on their way across Canada. Friends call when they think you might be having a bad day. The connection is there. It just needs to grow stronger.

On the topic of making a connection, Laura King revisits the Brantford Expositor's article about "Killed in the Line of Duty" in her Firefighting in Canada editor's blog. You may remember I took issue with Chris Brennan's skewed perspective on the subject . . .  and I am glad to see that I wasn't the only one that thought the columnist was off base. You can sift through a pile of letters to the editor here, and see my response that finally got published (mistakes and all). Try Googling "Chris Brennan" "Brantford Expositor," and most of the first page of hits will be people criticizing his ill-thought out logic. The fire service came together on this one because it is an issue that touches us all, career and volunteer, urban and rural. It even caught the attention of our friends in the US. Billy G's Secretlist was where I first encountered it.

A rule of thumb in our democratic village is that people won't get involved unless they are mad. Our town meetings prove this principle on a regular basis. In November the residents vote on the fire, recreation, and local services board budgets. We get about the same attendance as you would expect for a town study group on the book of Leviticus . . . unless people are upset about a change in the budget. Then the whole village turns out. That's only happened once or twice in the past 15 years, and fortunately no one was mad at me, which is the only reason I'm alive to tell the story.

Did I ever tell you that when small town politics get vicious, it's like refereeing a free-for-all between a tornado and a hurricane?

Fortunately, our inner craziness is strictly reserved for really desperate situations, or for losses of game seven in the Stanley Cup finals (sorry Vancouver, I had to rub your nose in it one more time). While this slow and steady attribute is a great strength, it can work against organizations like the volunteer fire service that are facing extinction unless radical change is introduced.

I cannot see into the future, but I fear that unless we are successful in persuading our country - and even our fellow volunteers - to stand up and speak out on our behalf, we will face even more difficult times in the next few years.

The Prophet of Doom has spoken. I can hear the collective Canadian yawn as they switch the channel. I guess I just haven't made people mad enough yet. 


  1. Christina HarrisJuly 4, 2011 at 10:42 PM

    Haha I love your BLOG!!! Funny funny rhetoric!! :) And may I say as your neighbor, I am glad you have survived the village politics and still walk about intact and breathing!! ;) I forsee a book one day of Beebwitzisms!! PS: When you were a kid, did you ever figure out what a "Dawnzer" light really was? Keep yielding the mighty pen cuz I have heard laughter is the best medicine out there!!

  2. Thanks! A book is a good idea, if I can figure out how to go about it :-).


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