This will not be a normal Harry Carter commentary. I am really fired up about all of the nonsense which is going on in our nation and in the world at large. Since we cannot divorce the fire service from the world at large, I think that the time has come for a reality check on where we stand at this time in history.
As I sat watching the Sunday news show this week, I began to think. This is always a dangerous thing. You never know what will happen when the rubber in the world meets the road of life in my brain. The thoughts which were created seemed to be most negative indeed. My concerns about America are growing. Unfortunately, there is really not much that I can do to make these problems go away. I am just a firefighter, a writer, and a commentator on the public condition.
So what's a boy to do at a time like this? I guess the best I can hope for is to share a few thoughts with you and then hope that my words can be a motivator for someone who does have the power to make a few changes in the way our country is operating. I intend to write a bit about politics, trade, and their impact upon the world where you and I serve as defenders of the public good.
My first worry is for the world which my children (and hopefully grandchildren) will inherent from my wife and I. We have lived a very good life. Jackie and I worked for well over 40 years to make our way in the world. Each of us worked at jobs we loved and from which we derived a great deal of satisfaction. What more can you ask of this life than to work at rewarding and enjoyable jobs. Jackie worked as a nurse for more than 42 years and I have been in the fire business for well over 45 years. But what lies ahead for our children?
Our nation's corporations have put their own financial welfare ahead of the welfare of our nation. How else can you explain the fact that as I sit here crafting this commentary, there is not a single thing which I am using or wearing which was crafted in America? A letter in the Asbury Park Press put this all in perspective. In it the writer shared some critical elements with us. Here is just a small part of what the writer suggested is our new reality:
- Fig Newtons are no longer made in North Jersey. They were outsourced to Mexico.
- The same with dear old Hershey's chocolate products.
- La-Z-Boy recliners are now made in China.
- The same hold true for those little red Radio Flyer wagons and Huffy bicycles
- Rockport shoes can be made in Chile, Bangladesh, or China.
Do you see a trend here? My shirt is from Singapore, my trousers are from Malaysia, my shoes are from someplace else and the Lord himself only knows the origin of my socks. My cell phone was crafted overseas, as was my fire department pager. The carrying cases for both of these items were made in China. Parts of my GMC car were made in Mexico and Canada. Do you see a pattern forming up here? Heck, even my new boiler is made by a Korean company.
The nation which you and I have sworn to protect is being relegated to the status of a colony. Take a moment and reflect upon that thought. Some of our biggest economic players are now appendages of foreign corporations. Heck, even the Budweiser Brewing Company is now owned by a Dutch company. Think about that. Bud Light is now a Dutch beer. What is wrong with this picture my friends?
As you and I are being forced to deal with a terrible economy which is serving as the engine to gut our fire department budgets, is there a glimmer of hope? Hmm, wonder. In any event, let me suggest that you need not look to our government in Washington, DC for any form of assistance. I am disgusted with these boobs. I do not think that these people can even agree as to what day of the week it is.
How can I have any faith in a government which seems to look at compromise as a dirty word or some form of disease? How can I have any faith in our government's ability to bargain in good faith when so many of them have signed a "No-Tax" pledge which was put forward by some right-wing nut job? Our nation was founded by men who lived by the principles of good faith bargaining and compromise. These were people whose word served as their bond. That was how our nation was founded.
We now have a whole raft of politicians who would lose their ability to breathe freely in the absence of their lawyers, handlers, and pollsters. As a matter of fact, if breathing was not an autonomic function, these nitwits would starve for air and probably die. These are the people (our representatives) who were bought and paid for by the very corporate interests which have supported all of those economic deals which were supposed to be great for out nation. This is our current form of representative government. Well, they sure as heck aren’t representing me.
How are my family and I any better off because my L.L. Bean shirts are made in the Philippine Islands? How is my family any better off because my Dockers trousers are made in the Dominican Republic? How is my family any better off because my shoes are made by people who live in mud shacks and cardboard boxes? Global economy my Aunt Ann's fanny: We are now just another colony consuming the trinkets provided to us by the Wal-Mart's of this new global economy. Oh, that would be a big colony with a large standing military force.
Do I seem a little angry this morning? You can bet you ass I am angry. The future of my children is at stake. My daughter Ellen is getting married next year and I have had to endure watching the nest egg, which is supposed to pay for that joyous event continue to shrink, because of the little whining children on Wall Street who are running around like a bunch of latter-day Chicken Little types crying out that they final world is collapsing around them.
Get a grip you dumb-asses. That is my future that you are gambling away. How am I supposed to plan for my old age if you are tossing my investments on the scrapheap of history? We keep hoping for an economic recovery. We might as well wish for a democratic government in China.
I guess my son Todd is the child for whom I have the least worries and the greatest hope. He is fully employed as the Parochial Vicar at the Parish of Our Lady of Sorrows/St. Anthony's in Mercerville, New Jersey. He is counseling and marrying people, conducting weddings and funerals, and serving as an advisor for various parish groups. My friends, he seems to be as happy as a clam doing the Lord's work here in New Jersey.
On the other hand, my daughter Katie is still trying to catch on with a board of education for a full-time teaching position. Unfortunately, thanks to the brilliant politicians who run New Jersey (unlike the brilliant politicians in your state), a budget crisis has been created and teachers have been laid off. Teachers have been made to seem the enemy. In the midst of this all, my Katie doesn't have much of a shot at becoming a full-time teacher until these folks are rehired.
In addition to all of this, my tax dollars are being siphoned from Howell Township and shipped off to the big cities in my state who consistently vote for the party in power. Having worked in Newark, I am convinced that if the Democrats ran a real donkey for office that it would have a great shot at being elected in New Jersey. Or so it would seem based upon a review of history.
No, this has not been a normal visit with you my friends. I have shied away from normal fire service topics. I have done this for what I see to be a good reason. Nothing that you or I do in the fire service occurs in a vacuum. The problems which I face here in New Jersey are the same problems which you are facing or will at some time face in that part of the nation you call home.
Let me suggest that there is a need to understand all of these economic and political problems. How can you plan for the future of your fire department if you fail to understand the reality of the world wherein you are conducting your planning exercise? Let me share one great example for you about how this political nonsense must be a part of your future-planning efforts.
As Chairman of the Board for Howell Township Fire District #2, I need to be realistic in my thoughts about the future. Unfortunately, the politicians in our state see fire districts as a useless form of shadow government. Therefore, they are fighting to run us out of business. So far two far districts have bitten the dust.
Let me suggest that there are others which may face a similar fate. As fellow Americans, we will all be forced to endure the continuing travails which are continually emitting from our nation's capitol.
During my time as President of the New Jersey Association of Fire Districts, a great deal of my time was spent working to educate the legislators in our state capitol as to the benefits of our work to provide municipal fire protection. Will my team prevail or will we lose? The jury is still out. But we are going to stay in there punching for our team.
So my friends, where does this leave us? Times are tough, but you and I still have to provide effective fire protection. In order to do this, we need to remain in touch with the reality of our world. This current reality is not pretty however, you ignore it at your own peril.
Let me close by suggesting that you will need to make, nurture, and retain a wide array of friends within your community. It is in times of trial when a person's friends can make the difference between success and failure. Good luck, because both you and I will need a great deal of it. Oh, and so too will our kids.