I was helping my oldest daughter with her English homework and we were having a discussion of the four kinds of sentences: declarative, imperative, interrogative and exclamatory. In light of all of the rhetoric lately on a few items, (you know, the Chester Flag Incident, the DCFEMS Live Burn Incident, etc.- and it is just by sheer coincidence each of these are on STATter911, okay Dave?) it seems that maybe we need a little lesson in the different types of sentences in order to help everyone through these crises.
As a little refresher for some of us, here is what I’m talking about:
1. Declarative sentences make a statement. They end in a period.
2. Imperative sentences can end in a period or in an exclamation point.
3. Interrogative sentences end in a question mark.
4. Exclamatory sentences end in an exclamation point, or for some of you out there, ALL CAPS.
Now understand, these are pretty general. There are always exceptions to rules (like my sarcastically phrased interrogative statement that is actually an imperative statement; Standing in front of an obviously open compartment door while the driver is not paying attention to the fact that he has left the compartment door open, saying, “You did remember to shut that door, didn’t you?”).
Now for the most part, we here at FHZ like to use plenty of the interrogative when discussing items with you all. I am really not in any position to discuss things with you declaratively, because I am not an expert on anything. I do, however, have a lot of experience, so I like to use the Socratic method of teaching, that is, to throw out open questions to you like softballs and let you think about them as you slam them into the outfield. Very rarely will you see me word anything in the exclamatory. I’m an old-school kind of officer; I like for you to realize I am yelling at you without necessarily having to raise my voice (although from my earlier post about yelling, I’m sure you understand that this isn’t feasible all the time). When writing though, I consider myself a master of the deftly-worded semi-sarcastic statement that makes you read it, then go back again and say, “I wonder if he’s calling me an idiot?”
Think of it as a little verbal Aikido. If you know anything about the art of Aikido, you know that the underlying concept is to use the attacker’s momentum and redirect it, while also having deeper concern for the well-being of the attacker. Most of the time when someone is being nasty, I really don’t wish you bad, I just wish you’d go away. And while you’re at it, take this broken humerus as a reminder of this lesson.
But one thing I really can’t stomach is a bully, and for some reason, the internet brings them out of the closet in droves. Honestly, to me, I think it has been said repeatedly (and I am in full agreement) that the relative anonymity of the internet gives some of these trolls courage. It’s really the same way with society in general. It’s when you know these people, I mean really know them, like they are your neighbor, or your co-worker, when you find a lot of that “courage” goes out the window. Just like your basic road rage; while we are all probably tempted to flip off that terrible driver, it’s a whole different ballgame if you see him four pews over from your family in church every Sunday.
These bullies like to speak in the declarative and the imperative and often in the exclamatory, when really, they should be listening and speaking in the interrogative language, especially when we find out the “resident expert” has been on the job for three and a half years and has run a hundred calls in that time. When someone like me, who has plenty of cred to back up anything I would like to proclaim in this business, says to you, “I’d like to hear what YOU think about it”, maybe some of you blue-light bandits or red-light raiders, or whatever you call your resident whacker, should take that as a hint that even with thirty years on the job, I’m still learning, and I take pride in saying that I can learn from anyone and on any day (sometimes its what NOT to do, but you see my point). And it’s not a vollie thing or a career thing, it’s a “professional” thing. I know plenty of vollies that can eat the career guys up on a fireground, but I know of plenty of vollies who like to talk a good game but can’t back it up when the excrement is flying, if you know what I mean.
When everyone in our business starts realizing that they don’t have all the answers, maybe then we’ll be a little more civil to one another and stop pontificating like some blowhard hypocrite politician or preacher, not that there are any of those out there. But until then, plan on more of the same every year around the fire service, where something blows up and forty guys and gals sit around Monday Morning Quarterbacking it, not ever having actually faced that situation themselves. And in the event that the day comes, those same trolls will probably be standing out by the engine with a wet spot in their bunkers, watching the rest of us doing our thing.
We need a little more understanding, not just in our business, but in society. I’m one of the worst cynics there are out there, but I’m trying, I mean, I’m really TRYING to give people the benefit of the doubt, and some of these trolls just make it damned difficult.
Let’s just try to make one of those buddy pacts; like if I find myself getting ready to flame someone, I can call on you and you’ll talk me out of it, and vice-versa (“Hi, I’m Mick, and I’m a cynic. I’ve gone 45 minutes without swearing under my breath and calling someone a total idiot.”).
It’s time we work together in our industry and work harder to educate everyone, not just in the basics of firefighting or rescue or EMS, or even in incident command, or anything fancy like that. Just educate everyone in being better “brothers” and better co-workers and asking more questions and less telling people what to do or how they should think. When you have unbelievable access to authors and bloggers like the ones here in FireEMSblogs.com and all over the internet (and in your library, etc.), why not take advantage of it? There’s a lot to be gained from looking at different approaches to the same problems and learning if there is something we have in common, rather than shooting each other when things go wrong.