Forest Fires and Nine Eleven

Posted: October 15, 2007 in Politics

In my youth, I was on a job with the forest service fighting forest fires. One day I was in a wooded area that was populated by trees about 50’ high. Those trees had most of their foliage near the top; which contributed to a condition rife for a phenomenon called topping out. This occurred when the foliage is so dry and clustered near the top of the trees, and close enough together, that fire leaps from one tree to another without coming near the ground.

I started running in panic. I probably didn’t get a dozen steps before a seasoned fire-fighter yelled, “stop!” I immediately did so. He took the time to explain to me that I was not just about to outrun that fire; the prudent action was to watch what those with experience were doing.

What a metaphor for 9/11 this is!

It was the reaction of our government leaders that compares to my panic when I ran, in fright, from that roaring (and I do mean roaring – the fire was making a deafening sound that added to the horror that made me run.) Where were the calmer minds we needed to prevail in this time of our national tragedy? They were probably there; but they were being ignored by the people in charge.

We ran in panic when there was no possibility we could outrun the perceived danger from the initial attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon[1]. Our administration’s successful effort to get a majority of Americans to believe a connection between 9/11 and Iraq enabled it to get a resolution adopted in congress to invade Iraq. That ill-conceived operation had the effect that parallels what would have probably happened to me if I had continued to run as that fire panicked me in my ignorance: I would have probably met with an accident, like running into a tree; a possibility because I was looking at the fire as I ran.

And the metaphor continues to illuminate issues in the national debate as it is. We have run into a tree in the Middle East and our nation has been harmed greatly. The only way we will ever recover is to withdraw from the tree we’ve run into, elect people with the experience and calm demeanor to do the right thing in moments of emergency. It is up to We the People to make that happen. It will only happen when we demand better accountability from those we elect and re-elect.

I encourage everybody to do more than just vote. As Howard Dean would say: “If you (only) vote you get a D”. To get a better grade you must get active! Contact your democratic party’s local election office when it opens; and volunteer to help elect those who have the sound minds for the offices they are running to fill. And you can run for office. It is an excellent way to get a feel for the experience of public service in politics. At the same time you just might lose a little of that cynicism. The time and effort is well spent, I assure you.

And write to your elected officials often to offer your views. The truly competent leaders will continue to solicit your views and listen to them. I am convinced that the ones I write to are listening. Their responses have been well thought out and indicate that they have open minds for my thoughts.

As a result of my experiences I am anything but a cynic. Yes, I am skeptical. I don’t assume anybody is doing their jobs. I pay as much attention to their conduct as I can, within my capacity. In this age of the internet we have access to more information than ever before. Keeping in mind that information is not knowledge, it is absorbing and comparing information from many sources that leads to understanding.

In conclusion, I offer this as a short guide to contributing to your community, “Lose the fear and hate; get involved.”

[1] Read the excellent account of events on 9/11 in “Pretext for War: 9/11, Iraq, and the abuse of America’s intelligence agencies.” by James Bamford.



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