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April 22, 2010
By Laura King


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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Indianapolis, Ind. - In a land perpetually stuck in an election cycle, it might be too naïve to expect that the FDIC would be immune from politics.

Twenty minutes into my first session at FDIC - where I'm proudly wearing my Fire Fighting in Canada jacket - and politics has made me acutely aware that we're south of the border. News of convulsions within a fractured Republican party is hard to miss, as the upstart right-wing Tea Party movement mounts an effort to lead conservatives into November's crucial mid-term elections.

Speaker Capt. Mike Gagliano of the Seattle Fire Department calls this version of the FDIC the most political version of the event he's seen.

With that as context, I'm sitting in Middle America's political
heartland, in the main conference room at the Indiana Convention
Centre, for a panel session on diversity, a very Canadian topic in a
very American setting.
It features some quite profound speakers, including Joseph Muhammad,
president of the International Association of Black Professional Fire
Fighters; and Cheryl Hovarth, president of International Women in Fire
and Emergency Services.

The tension in the room is palpable — diversity means something
different to a lot of different groups in the great American cultural
melting pot — and you don't have to listen hard for evidence of the
influence and unrest of America's political right.

Already there has been mention of the Tea Party in reference to an
earlier presentation by outspoken Fire Engineering editor Bobby Halton.
Politics — people's politics, not necessarily party politics — clearly
permeates the U.S. fire service much more significantly than it does in
Canada, where our pressing issues are aging equipment and how to staff
rural fire departments 24/7. The politics are tugs of war over budget,
not over left wing versus right wing views of the world.

Here in America's heartland the issues go deeper and the tension runs
much higher among interest groups and activists. And everyone, it
seems, either is interested or part of an interest group.

Everyone here is wide-eyed and pleasantly surprised when we say we're Canadian.

Thank goodness for that, eh?


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