I have been around the fire service in one form or another long enough to remember the side-effects of Backdraft. Four years after the release of that movie, firehouses around the United States were still flying flags from their apparatus—Chicago style. The years after 9/11 have brought similar inspired displays—and fire apparatus adorned with American Flags and other patriotic scenes. Often where it seems as though they could be the background of a video where Lee Greenwood sings “God Bless the USA”.
I suppose these are not really bad things—although a presence of false patriotism is almost as bad as false anything else. How many people claim to be Christian but judge everyone else in the world in the first and last breath of their day and most of those that come in between? Instructions in the “Good Book” notwithstanding.
But back to the firehouse. Around the same time, another trend developed. The use of a word so frequently and so intensely by so many that it became a kind of shorthand for everything in the American Fire Service. A word that’s power is intended to inspire—support—reassure. And that word is: Brother.
Now, I understand, I think, what people are trying to say. I really do. They want to convey that everyone in the fire service is all together; that we all care about each other. That we will support the efforts of our fellow fire service members till the end.
Not to sound crass—but that is far too often a complete and total line of crap. And each day it becomes more so. In just the same way as the Westboro Church? holding “God Hates Fags” signs at a military funeral; or a member of a fire department embezzling from the department funds—the word “Brother” is a word that just doesn’t live up to the reality far too often in the firehouses and communications centers of the American Public Safety World.
First and most simply, let’s start not by using the word—but by living the action. It is by first looking out for our fellow SISTERS and BROTHERS in the Public Safety World and putting action to thought that we create a genuine community of support. I personally watch people use the word who then turn around—and to their brother (or sister) complain, moan, and whine about the person they also called brother just a few hours before. I see the person that speaks of how we are in this together abuse sick time—call out when it looks like it might be a busy day—fail to do their job to the best of their ability—or just generally act like a spoiled brat in the firehouse/communications center/et. Al.
We seem to have an overall problem in this country with words being thought of as equal to action. It’s not a surprise in a digital world where so much communication is virtual—including what you are reading right this instant. We have somewhat lost the idea of letting our actions speak instead of our words—and I would argue in no case is this more frequent that the term brother and in few places is it more important that you walk, instead of talk, than public safety. The challenges—the stress—and the importance are real. So should you be.
The same applies no matter what the topic, let your actions replace what you feel need to be your words. Don’t talk about going on a diet, going back to school, being a better person of faith, or saving money. Just because you post it on Facebook does not make it true. And just because you call me your brother does not mean you are someone I can count on when the brown stuff is flying into the oscillating air cooling device.
No matter what the topic, let us all endeavor to say less—and do more. And please, don’t call me brother unless I know it is a genuine reflection of our mutual understanding and appreciation in the firehouse. Till then, Chief Carver will work just fine.