Another debate brewing in the fire house – nothing new there. This time, it’s over an American flag decal displayed on the locker of a firefighter and the subsequent display of an inverted American flag on a firefighter’s hat. Lots of potential complex issues here, including potential claims of free speech infringements. I am not an attorney (I count that among my blessings) so I am not going to address the legal issues.
I acknowledge my opinions are based on limited information. I am confident the issues run much deeper than what has been reported on the websites. That said, I see this whole fiasco in much simpler terms – an example of the children not playing well in the sandbox. Someone needs a time-out.
Someone puts something up on their locker. Someone else doesn’t like it and files a complaint. Someone gets some time off. The chief (in this case… day care proprietor) deals with the problem by invoking a rule that requires everything to be removed from the front of all lockers. That seems an appropriate measure. If the children cannot play well, remove the source of the conflict. But one of the children doesn’t like the new rule implemented by the day care proprietor and defies the order, displaying an American flag on his locker. Apparently, he interpreted the chief’s order as meaning “Remove everything from the front of ALL lockers, except whatever you want to put up to stir controversy.”
The firefighter got into trouble. Duh! He got a day off work. So to protest the “unfair” treatment he received, he wears a hat at work that displays an inverted American flag – a symbol that is supposed to be reserved for imminent danger or imperilment. Apparently holding his breath and stomping his feet weren’t being effective.
Growing old is mandatory... maturing is optional. Unfortunately, some firefighters choose to pass on the option of maturing and when they do, their actions embarrass the firefighters who work so hard to set high standards of professionalism. As I stated at the beginning, I’m sure the issues run deeper than what appears on the surface. I appreciate that we all have differences in beliefs and we won’t always get along. However, when these differences play out in public forums, the entire profession suffers.