Letters to the Editor

The fable of the fire chief and the dissidents

There was once a community that consisted of several factions that were simultaneously competitive and interdependent. One faction was traditionally in charge, and the thought of a member of one of the minority factions exercising a significant leadership role and holding a position of real power was abhorrent to some members of the majority. This was not a universal feeling, however: 43 percent of the majority combined with the minorities to elect a new fire chief.

The new fire chief took over with great expectations by the majority of the citizens. He was inspirational, energetic and visionary. He had great plans for the community's success. But the outgoing fire chief had left three significant fires burning, so his most immediate task was to put out the raging fires, which were draining the community's resources and threatening instability. He focused on all three with all his energy and available resources, asking for everyone's cooperation and support. Most citizens responded positively.

However, a significant segment of dissidents was disgruntled, more interested in who was fighting the fires than whether the fires were extinguished. Instead of picking up a water hose and helping, they picked up stones and hurl them at the new fire chief. Thus the new chief's attention was divided between dodging the rocks thrown by the dissidents and leading the firefighting.

The dissidents did not consider the fire chief to be a legitimate member of the community, and thus not a legitimate chief. The fact that he was, and was very capable, as well as the fact that he and other minorities have performed far better than the dissidents expected, despite opposition by the dissidents, has not deterred the dissidents.

The dissidents continue to oppose the fire chief on each of his initiatives, regardless of the merits. They cheer when he experiences minor setbacks and refuse to applaud when he succeeds. There is much evidence that members of other communities respect the new fire chief. Recently he received one of the highest honors that the world community can bestow on a community leader, and was derided by the dissidents for having received the honor.

The unfortunate truth and irony is that many of the sons and daughters of the community are involved in fighting the fires, and the fire chief would have a much better chance of putting out the fires, with fewer casualties, if he had the support of the entire community.

The community has strong ideals, and the majority believe in those ideals. It also withstood some serious tests of the strength of the union in years past. There is every reason to believe that it will also overcome what are essentially maturing pains.

ROGER OWENS

Mauldin

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