TN Fire Inflames Passions on Red Eye
Wow. What a night. Let me start off by saying, don’t annoy Andy Levy, because he will totally take you down. Just kidding, Mr. Levy. I still think you’re swell.
In truth, I tweeted just before tonight’s Red Eye started that I’d vote for Levy because he is one of the kindest, most fair minded people on the planet. Despite his views on the TN house fire, with which I disagree, I still think that’s true. He’s free to think of me what he will. We’ve only exchanged a handful of tweets and neither of us knows the other from Adam (or Steve.)
So here’s what happened:
On September 29th, a house in Olbion County, TN caught fire. The homeowners called 911 in South Fulton. The problem? Residents in unincorporated Olbion County aren’t covered by the city’s services as they do not pay property taxes to the city. Consequently, they are given coverage by the city’s fire department if they pay an annual $75 fee. The homeowner in this case, one Gene Cranick, hadn’t paid the fee.
When the man called 911, apparently after his son had tried in vain, he offered to pay whatever it would take if the fire department would come and put out the fire. He was told it was “too late.” (source: Local 6 WPSD)
Eventually, when the fire spread to the property of a neighbor who had paid the fee, the Fire Department showed up to put out the flames on that neighbor’s land.
The story hit Red Eye tonight and was a little bit contentious, then Levy’s Halftime Report came on the air and the proverbial feces honed in on the atmospheric circulation device.
Host Greg Gutfeld made some of the same points I made earlier when discussing this subject with friends on Facebook
It’s like cops. If a homeless guy who doesn’t pay taxes is being beaten up, the cops jump in.
How lucky was the fireman that no one died?
Angela McGlowan voiced the opinion the family may have the right to sue.
Andy Levy disagreed with all of this. He seemed to take what I feel is a hardcore Libertarian stance (I am not claiming anything larger about Levy’s personal beliefs or party affiliations): that the cold hard facts are the family didn’t pay, so tough shit, though he phrased it more eloquently.
It was this statement that caused me to tweet the following
This segment proves where Libertarianism is a moral failure.
A bit of a dispute broke out and Levy eventually responded with
No, what annoyed me was you made a stupid statement about libertarianism.
I stand by my statement, and here’s why.
I’ve been involved with Libertarianism for over 15 years. Not always as a participant, but as a bystander. Libertarianism tends toward a core set of laws and recognizes no moral responsibility to act outside those laws. Aside from championing the works of Ayn Rand, the earlier novels of Robert Heinlein are often Libertarian favorites. There is a “the dwarves are for the dwarves” attitude running through Libertarianism. Or, if you’re not a C.S. Lewis fan, “get off my lawn!”
You may be a Libertarian and disagree with this view personally, but if you don’t recognize it exists, I can’t imagine you’ve ever talked to any significant number of Libertarians.
But here’s the thing. I said Libertarianism showed a moral failure. And I meant it. I did not say all Libertarians suffer a moral failure.
As a conservative, I agree with Levy – and many of the Red Eye fans on Twitter – that the homeowner should have paid the fee. Expecting something for nothing is not a conservative value. Nor is it an ethical one. The story above states the homeowner thought the FD would come even if he didn’t pay the fee. But where’s the context? Did he mean he never intended on paying the fee and thought he could just get free services? Or had he paid in previous years and simply forgot?
What bothers me about the point of view that Levy, and many others online tonight, expressed is this: where’s the human compassion? The sense of community?
Let me be very clear: I am not accusing Levy, or anyone else, of being a person lacking in compassion. I’m saying his point of view on this issue did.
I am not saying it was wrong of the city to ask a fee for expanding its services to a non-incorporated, non-tax paying area.
What I am saying is that the fire department, Levy and others seem to be clinging almost slavishly to the letter of the law in this issue, rather than the spirit of the law.
Libertarianism does often remove every aspect of “spirit” from the law. Not only are laws to be restricted to the bare necessities, but all morality is left to the individual. And that’s fine.
Not only am I a Libertarian-leaning conservative, I’m a guy who grew up in a small town with a strong sense of family and community. When I was a kid, people in our neighborhood who were “kid friendly” put up a sticker on their front windows. When children saw those stickers, we knew we could go to those houses if we needed help. People weren’t paid to do this; they did it because they felt it was the right thing to do. And individual choice. One a Libertarian could clearly make.
The 911 dispatchers, the firefighters: all felt compelled to adhere to the letter of the law. The homeowner offered to pay whatever amount of money it took to get the firefighters to respond. In essence, the response was “Burn, baby, burn!”
I have no idea what their political affiliations were, but the thinking that seems to have gone into this decision does appear to me to represent a purely objectivist Libertarian point of view.
People on both sides of the argument compared the situation with ObamaCare. I’d like to draw a completely different analogy: to the Ground Zero Mosque. We almost all agreed (at least the people I spoke with) that the Cordoba Initiative has the right to build the mosque. Most of us agreed that it was a crappy and immoral thing to do, whether they had the right to do it or not.
Yes, the firefighters had the right to not fight the fire: the homeowner hadn’t paid for the service. Maybe they even had a legal obligation not to fight it, regardless of whether they personally wanted to. But, even if you have no religious belief, I’d like to suggest a higher morality than the letter of the law: a sense of humanity.
Personally, I’d rather go home jobless than live with myself knowing I had the power to help a fellow human being and chose not to. I don’t claim that’s a superior morality to anyone else; I just claim it’s mine.
If the homeowner had said, “You’ll come out and fight this fire for free whether I pay for it or not,” I’d be making a different argument. But he didn’t. He offered to pay whatever it took.
I believe in personal responsibility and in paying your own way. But I also believe in some wiggle room, the power of forgiving mistakes before it’s too late, and the power of the human spirit to overcome a dispassionate law when the well being of neighbors are on the line.
And if you disagree with me, you’re probably a racist homophobe who likes Keith Olbermann.
“Red Eye” air date – October 5, 2010. Guests: Angela McGlowan, first-timer Ryan Reiss and Larry Gatlin. Cast: Host – Greg Gutfeld, Sequential Hermaphroditic Sidekick – Bill Schulz and Ombudsman – TV’s Andy Levy
The views in this post are entirely my own (except where I’m quoting.) Neither “Red Eye” nor Fox News endorse or support my “Red Eye” posts. I am not affiliated with the show in any way, other than being an avid fan.
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