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First Responders and Politics

Now, as regular readers know, Aunt Toby has very very strong opinions about almost everything, but I don’t necessarily express them here. But today is different. A lot of people everywhere are looking at September 11, 2001 and saying ‘We don’t forget.”

And while we don’t forget the thousands of people who died that day, and we try very hard not to forget the fire, medical, and rescue people who endangered themselves to respond to the attacks in DC and New York City. At the same time, we have two very very powerful men in this country, Rep. Eric Cantor and Gov. Rick Perry of Texas who basically are saying ‘Having funded public safety is not only not important, it’s wasteful and we’re going to cut the funding.’

That’s right. Aunt Toby, for the very first time on this stage, is going to get up on a soap box and do a rant. So, if you’ve come here for a recipe, a sewing or money-saving technique, or something on raising free-range chickens, you have my permission to leave now because the air is gonna get blue and I do not apologize for it.

The past couple of weeks in Upstate New York (and in Vermont and in Pennsylvania and all over the eastern seaboard have been hellaciously horrible. Between Hurricane Irene and then ‘the hurricane that turned into a tropical storm’ Lee, we have been blown apart and inundated. My home area in Upstate New York basically has become the ‘flooded city icon’ on and the news. The governor has basically made so many trips down here from Albany and fly-overs that he probably is having his people look for a hotel room for him. The amount of response from local police, fire and rescue people has been amazing. Literally thousands of people in one city in our county alone have been evacuated and will probably not be able to get back into their homes to start the process of gutting and cleaning for quite some time. There’s at least one elementary school that was under 8 feet of water and probably won’t be able to be used … this school year.

The National Guard is here dealing with rescue, food and water drops. Wegmans, a large regional grocery chain, has been getting food, water and cleaning goods here in double quick time despite the fact that we are cut off in terms of interstate highway access both to the northeast and the west.

But it is the local fire, medical, and rescue folks who have, along with people’s neighbors, just given everything for this effort.

Texas is, at the moment, going through the worst wildfires since 1895. It could have been less bad except for the fact that Governor Rick Perry cut the Texas Forest Service budget by $34 million AND he also cut 3/4ths of the funding for matching grants for Texas volunteer fire departments, which make up about 80% of the fire fighting resources in areas that get wildfires. In addition, he also slashed the budget of the state agency that examines and certifies fire fighting equipment for fire companies in the state, putting fire fighters at risk for using equipment which may fail during a fire or rescue, endangering lives and property.

Eric Cantor is a totally different (though similar) breed of cat. The president has requested $500 million dollars in disaster relief (and given what we’ve had this year, even that will not be enough), Cantor has publicly said that there will be no disaster relief without equal cuts in first responder funding in the Homeland Security Budget. Now, first responder funding has already taken a 19% hit – with what Cantor is demanding, their total reduction would be 59%. This funding, by the way, supports recruiting, training and equipping first responders.

These are the people we depend on in emergencies such as what have been experienced this summer in Upstate New York, Vermont, North Carolina…and Virginia (they DID get an earthquake down there and it happened in Cantor’s Congressional District, too). These are the people who put their lives on the line when the planes struck the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in DC.

And these are the people who will NOT be there or who will have poor training, or equipment that does not work, or no protective clothing, if we allow people like Perry and Cantor to have their way.

Remember – in most of our cases, when something happens, the first responders are our neighbors. They are part of our community. Supporting first responders by writing, calling, emailing, faxing your state and federal representatives is supporting your neighbors and friends so that they disaster strikes, they can support you and your family.

At the moment, Eric Cantor and Rick Perry (and others like them) are, for political purposes, holding the ability of first responders in your community hostage.

All it takes for people such as this to win (and all they care about is winning, believe me – no matter what they say about ‘saving money’ and ‘small government’ and so on – it’s all politics) is for the rest of us to moan and groan and sit on our hands and hope they go away. They will not go away. If you are not involved, then THEY get to make the decisions.

If you don’t know who your state and federal representatives are, find out. Go to your state legislature web sites and find the names , email addresses and phone numbers. Call and write. Call and write again. Go to and and do the same. This is serious stuff. No matter what party your are registered with, no matter how you feel about specific policies and programs, this is something we can all support.

So, today, in addition to giving a thought to those who died on September 11th, let’s also give some thought to the First Reponders. Because, when you are in the middle of a hurricane, a flood, an emergency of any sort, you want first responders to be there. You are not going to care if that person is a Republican or a Democrat, a member of the Tea Party or if they’ve read Ayn Rand, Karl Marx or Groucho Marx. When you and your family are up in the attic with the water up to your waists, what matters is that they are there, they are your neighbors, they are trained and equipped and that they are there to rescue YOU.

(photo courtesy of Swiftwater Rescue, Greenville, NC)

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  1. Shiphrah says:

    Amen, amen, amen, Auntie Toby! Letters written in the midst of the Debt Ceiling debacle, and touched on precisely this subject.

    Perry makes Dubya look like a genius, and Cantor is a total weenie.

  2. Duchesse says:

    Move over, I’m up on that soapbox with you. Damn straight.

  3. b says:

    I was so interested in Presidents Obama’s statement about our country when he said that we are not about cutting funding for school, firefighter etc. In fact we pay for those services “because we are all in this together”. In this country we only have those services and quality of life because everyone pays a little bit. Otherwise only the rich would have schooling for their children and swim pools for their families.

    Thank you,

    b (About retirement out here where the rubber meets the road)

  4. nalani says:

    Speak! And the truth shall set us free.

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