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Is a broken promise nothing more than a lie?

I believe that it is, even when you factor in “intent”.

When you make a promise, it is not your intent to break it, but it has the same end result as a lie when you fail to deliver on a promise.

To the person to whom the promise was made, it feels like a lie. It’s the same feeling of betrayal, isn’t it?

What about the motivation for the promise?

Was there ever the intent of keeping the promise or was it said simply to quiet the concerns at the time?

Firefighters are some of the most vocal people that I know. They are also some of the most trusting. Their word is their bond. “Contracts” are sealed with a handshake; or at least, they used to be.

In today’s political climate, it has become necessary for many of us to weigh everything against cynicism.


Because of all of the broken promises and lies. We have allowed too much power and latitude on our behalf.

Whether it’s because we have become too lazy or too apathetic; the facts remain that the fire service is having its collective head handed to it by a political system that is rife with liars and flimflammers.

Our elected representatives have spent so much of their time feathering their own nests that they have ignored the rest of us birds.

It seems as though that, even with clear writings on the wall that, by the time the next election comes around and their re-election is clearly in question, they don’t care about the broken promises and lies, because they are set for the rest of their lives. They are no longer a collective group that is of and for the people, but are instead one of and for themselves!

If you don’t believe that, then ask yourself about “red herrings”. A red herring is used to mislead or to divert attention. A politician will throw red herrings at you, such as:

Let me see what I can do.

I’ll get back to you on that.

Thank you for bringing this to my attention.

I have a lot of respect for firefighters.

We share some of the same opinions.

They are all designed to get you comfortable with the eventual fact that nothing will get done with your issue.

Do you know the difference between someone who represents you and someone who is a politician?

Your representative will give you his cell phone number and tell you to call them. A politician won’t give you his cell phone number, but will tell you to “call his office”.

In my many conversations with other firefighters on the subject of politics, I am continually amazed at how many of them still believe that they are not affected by politics. I think that it comes from a certain state of denial.

Think about it. Who are making the decisions to cut budgets, close fire stations, to reduce programs that assist fire departments and to deny benefits to a nation of first responders?

There is only one, correct answer and it is our elected/appointed representatives.

From fire commissions, boards of trustees, city councils, state and federal representatives and the President of the United States; they are telling our public that there is nothing more important than public safety, while at the same time slashing and trashing fire departments across the country.

We act as if it is beyond our reach to control it. We seem to want to vote for that person who promises us the Moon and the stars, because we want to believe them. We want to believe that THIS person is somehow “different”; only to find out too late that they aren’t.

If we would put in as much effort to scrutinizing our representatives as we do at throwing crap at each other in the discussion forums and chat rooms, imagine the difference that it could make.

It is not your fire boards’ or your chief’s sole responsibility to contact these people when legislative bills are in committee or on the floor for a vote; it is everyone’s responsibility.

You cannot leave such an important task to someone else.

THAT is what has gotten us to where we are!

Start the new year with a new attitude.


The opinions and views expressed are those of the article’s author, Art Goodrich, who also writes as ChiefReason. They do not reflect the opinions and views of, Fire Engineering Magazine or PennWell Corporation.

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Comment by Art "Chief Reason" Goodrich on December 16, 2010 at 11:40am


The underpinnings to your reply is that the persons that you describe lack the very thing that should make them effective...LEADERSHIP.

"Public safety director" does not exist in my dictionary. They are a two headed monster and not the multitasker that the mayor wants everyone to believe in. If they have a strong LEO background, then the fire department is feeling neglected. If they have a strong fire background, then the cops are screaming.

I am a strong believer in unified/shared command.

And I have known a couple of chiefs who were riding the rainbow to their pot of gold, but they are easy to spot.

It's simple for me; promise made/promise kept. Hold them accountable. Don't let them off the hook. Accept no lies and keep Trust as a guiding light.

Comment by Jon D Marsh on December 16, 2010 at 12:07am
Thanks Chief Reason, we share some of the same opinions (no red herring intended). All too often though, one can find far too many promise breakers in fire service administration and management such as so called "public safety directors" many of whom are loaded with political ambition, and BS; yet have power over Fire Chief's to the point that every word spoken, every action taken and even the leadership style of the Chief is under the control of the power hungry public safety directors. Some fire Chief's these days are nothing more than flimflammers in white ppe, wrapped in brand new expensive SUV's. Getting such a Chief to stand behind department member issues and/or concerns is like talking to the fish you mentioned, their answers, their promises always forgotten, begin to stink after a few days. In many departments members are forbidden to attend their city or county council meetings and if they attend one with any intention or attempt to mention fire department matters, they become eligible for immediate termination; however, when it comes to fire service issues before the U. S. Congress or Senate, each of us , as you stated, has an obligation to tell our elected representatives exactly how we feel about the issue.

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