Monday, October 19, 2009

Growing old is mandatory... maturing is optional.

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.
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5 comments:

  1. This should have been handled well before it made any news media. Both side were wrong the way it was handled, yep time to grow up.

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  2. Hey Rich,

    It really does run deeper then was printed. You touched a lot on the firefighters in you opinion, but what about the boss here?
    This started over the placing of a racist cartoon on a locker by the occupant of this locker who is black. The occupant of this locker has been the center of his own war for the black man (just one of his many statements made in the course of one day or night shift with this man). Most of the time this man and his rhetoric is ignored.

    The commissioner removed this cartoon. With nothing said to the man. Four days go by and another statement appears on this same locker this statement read something to the effect black man has no freedom of speech. The commissioner was made aware of this and it just so happen that the author of this statement was on duty. So the commissioner calls him into his office and tells him to remove it from the locker, he argued with the commissioner to the point where the commissioner relived him of duty. A month go’s by, the commissioner said he is deferring punishment to the city solicitors (because he said he was involved in sending him home) and then more time go’s by with nothing done except the time he lost for not take the second statement off the locker. Now with this individual’s history as you may have guest by now the whole department is now waiting with bated breath to see what is done to this individual for the racist cartoon and statement.

    Now the blanket rule comes out. Mind you the department members really didn’t have a problem with it. But I have to be honest here we did not think it would include the American flag. Yes the directive did said clear of all decoration and also listed on the directive were several items such as MDA, IAFF sticker with etc at the end of the list. Most guys don’t think of the flag as being a decoration. Another month goes by and it’s enforcement time. I receive a memo saying I am in violation. I go and talk with the commissioner and ask why I was on this list of men who were in violation of the directive. He said you have a sticker on your locker, I said yes I do, it is the American flag that’s all I have on my locker. He said well, I said the American flag is not listed on the directive. He said yes it is and we both started to read the directive and low and behold the flag was not on it, but when we hit the end of listed items he pointed at the etc and said “See it is on the list.” I said you are saying “Etcetera means the American flag?” He said yes. Three times I asked him hoping he would recant, that did not happen. So I removed my flag and chose to fight this other ways. Firefighter Krapf refused to remove his and was sent home. One thing here the commissioner had taken down the statements on the black man’s locker doing so stopped this man from losing anymore time then he did. But didn’t do the same with Krapf and the flag. Krapf was going to lose more time until he took the flag off of the locker himself. You know that if a white man had place a cartoon like this one it would’ve been holy hell to pay. After 911 firefighter, Krapf had an incident with this guy he tried to tie the one we have on the back of the truck in a knot. He said it interfered with his view when driving. Krapf untied the flag. The next day he caught him trying to cut it off of the truck. Krapf was transferred because of that incident. This in no way takes away from firefighter Krapf’s love of country and our flag. He stood firm on his beliefs

    There is a big difference in taking orders at a scene and fire house life rules! There is no schooling for firehouse life management. (This is an ability that only comes with experience and knowing yourself and your firefighters well). I agree that on the Fire Grounds there is not much room for deviation from orders or rules BUT there is a big difference between a races cartoon being placed on a locker and the American Flag on a locker. This Boss failed to address that properly.
    *Hence* Lazy or just Dumb management!

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  3. My issue with this whole thing is: why was this allowed to get to the point of being on the national media? I am not taking side either way except that I cant believe the "upper staff" allowed this to get so out of control that the national media caught wind of it. What happened to the "We take care of ourselves". Lastly, doesn't suprise me that a "blanket" rule was made. Rather than dealing with the crews as people the staff chose to deal with them as children. Can't be "mature" if you aren't given the opportunity to grow/learn.

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  4. Thank you Truckie, John, and Firedad for sharing your comments... and doing it so professionally. I really do appreciate it. Through this kind of sharing, we all learn new perspectives. I'm not taking anyone's side on this issue. Rather, I'm trying to get us (the fire community) talking about important issues we are all facing. These are tough time and tempers can flair when the pressure is on. Talking and sharing helps all of us cope. I really appreciate all the feedback I've receieved on this and other posts, both here on the blog and through my website. All of you make me so proud to be a firefighter. -- Rich

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thank you Truckie, John, and Firedad for sharing your comments... and doing it so professionally. I really do appreciate it. Through this kind of sharing, we all learn new perspectives. I'm not taking anyone's side on this issue. Rather, I'm trying to get us (the fire community) talking about important issues we are all facing. These are tough time and tempers can flair when the pressure is on. Talking and sharing helps all of us cope. I really appreciate all the feedback I've receieved on this and other posts, both here on the blog and through my website. All of you make me so proud to be a firefighter. -- Rich

    ReplyDelete

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