Dear Mr. President,
Ok, I guess I'm a socialist. Better Red than Dead. I should probably just break down and get Lenin's face tattooed on my bicep. What can I say, I'm hopelessly pro-firefighting. And, call me unreasonable, but I think firefighting services should be available, for free, for every person in America, regardless of where they live or if they are rich, poor, middle class or even Republican. If Dino Rosi's house is on fire, I really don't mind if some of the taxes I paid this year go toward putting it out. I know we don't really have HUAC any more, but I'm sure Michele Bachmann can whip something up to take care of me, right?
I'm writing in reference to a house fire in Tennessee. Because one home owner failed to pay the $75 rural residents are required to pay per year for firefighting services, his house burned to the ground. The man offered to pay for any expenses the firefighters might incur, and he was refused. The firefighters put out the part of the blaze that spread to his fee-paying neighbor's home, but sat outside in trucks with the necessary equipment to save his home and watched it burn.
If there's one policy area where you'd think that people could come together on, firefighting seems like it ought to be a strong contender. I do understand that this man's house was outside of city limits and so the fee for protecting him was to make up for the fact that his taxes didn't fund the fire department as those of city residents did. I get this. But when the moment comes and the firefighters are faced with a fire and don't put it out over $75, well, I think that something important is being missed. Emergency services should help people first, and worry about jurisdiction or expense after. Send the homeowner a bill, for God's sake. The fact that some people on the right are suggesting this man had it coming really upsets me. Forgive me, but what the hell kind of country is this? Whatever happened to love thy neighbor? Also, not to continually kick the issue of federal defense spending, but maybe if we were spending less money burning other countries to the ground, state and local emergency services wouldn't be quite so strapped for cash. Maybe we should apply this logic at the Federal level and stop offering tax evaders the services of the Federal government. Cease their mail delivery, refuse to allow them to fly or drive on federal highways and deny them Social Security.
While I may decry the policies that led to this, I have to indict the behavior of the firefighters themselves, as well. We have an obligation to help one another to the best of our abilities, on the clock or off. I don't have a whole lot of useful skills, but when I saw an old woman being assaulted at the bus stop, I stepped in to stop her assailant. Because I could. Because I have the training and the ability. My coworker is red-cross certified in First Aid, and you can bet he'd be the first to step up in a medical emergency, regardless of his likelihood of being compensated. My roommate speaks Spanish and will step up to translate for customers struggling to be understood. We all have skills and abilities and we all have a moral obligation to use those skills to help one another. These firefighters were trained professionals with the equipment (and also the time) to help put out the fire in this man's house and they refused to. That's shameful as public servants and shameful as human beings. Conservatives can spin and wring their hands and quote Ayn Rand all they want; at the end of the day there is right and there is wrong, damn it, and sometimes we're lucky enough know the difference.
So paint me red and call me comrade, because I guess I've been a socialist all along.