“A difference of opinion is what makes horse racing and missionaries.”
Will Rogers was correct.
I'm at a barn watching a show and browsing the net, taking in all the unsolicited advice the experts have, equestrian and fire service. Wrong bridle; wrong seat; didn't lunge enough; lunged too much; elbows out; inside leg too far forward; it's all over. Such is competition. One, maybe two judges in the ring and dozens in the stands, some who never showed a day in their life, much less pick out a hoof.
The same goes for the fire service. Not an incident goes by that is in our news pages, forums and blogs where Anonymous chimes in with all the facts and corrections laid out. It's not wrong to immediately question and reason why, especially when things go bad, but I believe it is disrespectful to do so under a veil of anonymity and without willingly laying out one's background. Countless opinions are given which eventually are found to be tied mostly to predetermined beliefs and have very little factual support.
So while watching and hearing all the ring "advice" I'm reading "advice" on Asheville as well. The investigation is hardly out of the gate and the questions have already started:
Why were they in there when they had no water?
Why were they in there when everyone was reported safely out?
Why don't they have competent incident commanders who can properly gauge the risks?
You and I can't prevent those questions and rightly so. We will certainly go down a slippery slope if we begin limiting what can be asked of such deaths. The problem is that they lack tact when asked before the embers are cool. They also lack respect – given and earned – when asked in anonymity.
Captain Bowen's grave isn't even dug yet and people are already judging him, others and the department from the comfortableness of home or firehouse.
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The horse pictured is mine. I don't show so I don't offer show advice and answers. I know my horse, but not others as much, so I don't offer horse advice either. If asked, I can give an opinion based on my experience and knowledge, but in the end it's only an opinion.
With every line of duty death – well, at least the glamorous firefighting ones – demands for answers come faster and faster and respect is kicked further down the curb. Opinions are pressed to be accepted as fact without even a glance into the presenter's experience. Differences of opinion do nothing more than divide us when fail to put our own history on the table. Much like racing and religion we push our favorite horse, our favorite belief. The problem is that many people do this and have never publicly mounted up or never publicly taken up a cross.
That crap has to stop. If you feel so strongly about your opinion that you need to publicly state it before the first shovel tosses dirt in the grave, then get a pair and show your name and department wherever you comment. Even if others disagree with you, they will have some respect for you.