Ranting and Bullying: The New Form of Discourse

Like many of you, I love the fire service. Like many of you, I have been battling the forces of ignorance and evil for a long time. The battle has been long and the battle has been hard. So what do I have to show for my decades of speaking out as an advocate of knowledge and reason?
Frankly, I am not sure what to tell you. People are battling over a variety of issues. Standards have been created out of fear of litigation, rather than out of a concern for the advancement of new technologies and improved service delivery concepts. People are being offended by other folks who want to stimulate discussions on a variety of topics. Civilized discourse seems like an ancient and obsolete concept. 
The east is battling the west, and it may even be that the north and south are going to have a go at it again. A story came to my attention recently that pretty much encapsulates the problems we are facing in maintaining fire service unity. A certain West Coast person was heard to say that they were against the theories of a certain person because that other person had an East Coast accent.   Are you kidding me Harry? Frankly I wish I was making this up.
Isn't this the year 2010? Are we not supposed to be light years beyond such petty nonsense? Apparently we are not. Heck, the next thing you will hear out on the circuit is that Southern people are not as smart because they talk so slowly. Now there is one I know to be patently wrong. How about the old chestnut that fat people are slow-witted and dumb? If these thoughts are allowed and possible, then might it not be that other old prejudices are going to be resurrected by ignorant people.
Sadly, it is beginning to look to me like people around our nation have once again begun to hole up within the comfortable walls of their local forts. Is it possible that we are on the verge of a time when people once again will fail to come together on a variety of critical issues? Heck gang, I have even received a number of email messages about the FIRE Act being such a lousy piece of legislation. These messages have hit me quite hard.
Have I not devoted a great portion of my life to this program? Did I not spend one entire month of my life traveling and meeting people who benefited from this watershed piece of federal legislation? Was I not in on the beginnings of this whole thing back in 2000? 
Was that not the year when I gave up my winter trip to play with my circus music group in Florida so that I could be part of the team which met in Emmitsburg to lay out the first set of grant parameters? It sure saddens my heart to think that I have wasted years of my life serving as an advocate for the ungrateful.
To listen to some people bitch, you would think that I have lived a mean and evil life. Worst of all, the people who battle progressive movements such as the FIRE Act do not seem to be open to a any form of reasonable discussion regarding the facts. No my friends, these people indulge in the brutal arts of ranting and bullying. To these people, reasonable debate and discussion are just a waste of time. They have made up their minds and do not wish to be confused and confounded by having to study the actual facts of a situation.
Then again there is the world of firefighter safety. How, you might ask, could there ever be a battle over something as seemingly critical as keeping firefighters safe? You now have the specter of the safety people battling with those who demand the right to do stupid things and kill people. You even have subgroups within the safety world battling with each other. 
Heaven help the poor soul who stands up in the middle of this battle and tries to present a new idea or position in order to stimulate thinking.   Woe be unto the person (or persons) who seek to encourage debate among the many stakeholders to the issue of firefighter safety and heath matters. People will turn on such folks with the ferocity of a seal hunter clubbing a baby harp seal in the Arctic. I just cannot believe how sad this sort of thing is. 

More than that, how can you possibly imagine people saying things like, "… you cannot make me be safe. Firefighting is dangerous and it is my desire to revel in the dangers rather than the drive to be safe." Or how about those people who are morbidly obese and insist on their right to fight fires. Let us be practical my friends.
There is a certain amount of personal buy in which I can make here.  Let us face facts. I am a well know chubbo of long, long standing. I am too short for my weight. I really should not be actively combating fires in the rough and tumble world of interior structural firefighting. I have come to terms with this one folks.
I am too large for my own good. I have cut down a bit on my eating and am swimming at out local fitness center. Will I ever be thin and pretty? There is no way that this will happen. In line with that I chose a few years back to move away from interior structural firefighting. I no longer posses the level of fitness necessary carry a charged hose line into a burning building.
Do I miss it? Hell yes. How can you not miss something you have done for decades? However, I still have a role to play in the fire department here in Adelphia. I drive the apparatus. My presence as a vehicle operator frees up a younger person to take the active physical roles involved in interior structural firefighting operations. More than that, I am now medically cleared each year to continue my active participation in this new exterior role.
Unfortunately, many among us never come to the realization that they should no longer be doing certain things. Heaven help the person who attempts to engage such people in a reasonable discussion of the facts. Such efforts will be met with a barrage of verbal abuse. People of reason are often put off by the ranting and bullying of people who do not wish to be swayed by a view different from theirs.
My love for the fire service is deep and abiding, and it is my pleasure to have devoted well over four decades to being an active and vocal member. Sadly, I am concerned that our fire service has been so thoroughly sliced, diced, and carved up by a variety of powerful, special interest factions that we can never again really speak with a single voice.
My hopes are guarded at best, given the ranting and raving I see on the 24-hour cable channels these days. How can we run counter to the way of society? Let me suggest that it is only via the mechanism of a conscientious effort toward reasonable and polite discourse that our hopes and dreams can be achieved. 
It is my hope that events of the future will prove me wrong about this one. Please let me hope that some modicum of reason and respectable discussion can return to our segment of society. However, the journey back to honest discussion is a journey of many thousands of miles, and we need to make the first steps to returning to a more patient and tolerant time.
Now if we could only get the U.S. Congress to agree to this. Oh well, let us start with something a little smaller. You know, like you and me. Please.