Today, I’m writing about flags. Why not? Everyone else is doing it.
We have flags on our apparatus and personal vehicles, flags on our uniforms and bunker gear. Some of us even have flags emblazoned on our hides.
I love our flag. I love it symbolically and stylistically. Nothing beats the sights of a freshly-washed engine, busting ass down Main Street, USA, Old Glory waving majestically from the back.
However, because of course, there must be a “however,” enough is enough. C’mon.
When I opened my Facebook page this morning, at least 19 of the first 20 posts that I scrolled past were about this weekend’s Great NFL Flag/Anthem/Kneeling Debacle of 2017.
Unsurprisingly, people were outraged at the sight of “pampered millionaires” kneeling in the presence of our flag. Equally unsurprisingly, people were outraged at their outrage (somewhere, a third sect was outraged over the outrage concerning all of the outrage).
(side-note: these guys are anything but “pampered.” They are absolute freaks of nature and work hard year-round to remain that way. They provide a service, not unlike your favorite musicians, actors and other entertainers. Just like those actors and musicians, they work every day to sharpen their skills to remain the very best in the world. Do you share the same dedication in your job? I know I’m not up @0500 practicing knots and ladder raises. While I was asleep in my recliner yesterday, I guarantee some lineman, somewhere, was putting up his 5th set of 400lb bench presses. They aren’t saving lives or curing cancer, but give credit where it’s due; they work hard to achieve greatness.)
We’re probably all adults here, surely we can give this a fair look from another angle:
I have never served in our armed forces. I am eternally grateful for the service of our soldiers, because, as Mike Birbiglia said: “if they weren’t the troops, I would have to be the troops.” I enjoy fine dining far too much to survive on MREs.
I do have family and friends that have served, though, and the majority of them offer the same reaction to Kneel-Gate; “Meh.”
To them, the sight of someone kneeling in protest on the field of play is just a sign that their sacrifices were not in vain.
Think about that from their perspective; you mortgaged off years of your life (if not your existence, in some cases) to protect their rights, and by God, there they are! Exercising that big, beautiful freedom for the entire world to see. “Look at those lucky Americans. All free and stuff.” You did that. You helped.
These players can kneel without fear of retribution because of your contributions.
Kneeling in protest is not a slap in their collective faces, it is a reassurance that they made a difference.
To these men and women, the biggest form of disrespect would be wasting their sacrifices. They didn’t die on beaches, or in jungles, forests, and deserts for you to stand for something you don’t fully believe in, or to kneel for something you’re wishy-washy about.
Don’t half-ass freedom, it is too precious to waste. As ridiculous as it sounds, someone, at some point in history, quite literally died so you could decide whether to kneel or stand at a stupid football game. Do not squander that sacrifice, no matter how small.
If you feel strongly enough about a cause to protest, do it, but own it. Not only would it be disrespectful not to, but it would also be an actual shame.
If you feel strongly enough about a cause to rise to your feet when the flag is on display, do it. Again, own it. It would be disrespectful, even wasteful, not to do so.
So, how does all of this relate to us, in our careers?
Before you call out others for disrespecting sacrifices, consider that we as firefighters are still wasting the sacrifices of our own.
There’s the story I should be writing.
The Denver Drill was thought up after a LODD, in an effort for others to learn from the experience and avoid future deaths. Someone had to die for us to find a specific way to escape death, should a similar situation arise again. When was the last time you practiced it? Could you even pull it off, right now? That, sir, is disrespectful. That is an actual issue.
Where is the outrage for Mark Langvardt? (If you don’t know him, seek the counsel of Google)
Is this article a good fit for a fire service blog? Probably not. I can admit that much.
But, I draw from current events when I write, and this story is EVERYWHERE.
There is no escaping it. I tried, believe me.
I just want to get back to writing about volunteers and barbecues (admittedly, not my best work).
So, stop bickering about flags. Stop fighting. Stop arguing. Stop being outraged. Stop being outraged about outrage. Let’s get back to actual issues, you know, the ones that actually affect people.
Did you know that a hurricane has absolutely decimated a U.S. territory? Yeah, that story got lost in the shuffle this week. Our bad, bros. I’m sure we have brothers and sisters down there, toiling away in the hot sun in an effort to help.
They might have been outraged, or even outraged about outrage, but they don’t have cable right now to watch the games. Or electricity. Or water. Or houses. They were robbed of their opportunity to rage by Mother Nature, like a thief in the night.
Anyway, a parting quote for the day, because we live in great, big glass houses;
“Be Nice” -Alan Brunacini