Between The Actual And The Possible

A group of volunteer firefighters made up of low risk prison inmates has been living and training in several sites around the city of Los Angeles, sites where they are supervised and confined. One of those site, at Mt. Gleason burned down during he last Malibu fire which they helped conquer. Malibu, it is to be noted, is in one of the highest fire danger zone in the country. Not long ago a site for the replacement for the Mr. Gleason facility was announced: a Malibu fire station. Some of the neighbors loudly complained, one, an actor on the West Wing, organized to rally support to defeat the proposal. Soon after the fire Chief announced they would look for a site elsewhere. A Los Angeles Times editorial called the whole incident an example of NIMBY in Malibu. It does make an observer wonder, if the not-in-my-backyard attitude will carry over to the next time there is a fire in the area and suggest that only non-prison inmates fight the fire and save the neighborhood and its lives. One can, of course safely predict this won’t happen. What seems clear though is that the real danger of living in a high risk fire area is smaller to those who objected than the possible danger of a volunteer prison inmate firefighter living under lock and key doing something criminal. I, for one would disagree. For one thing the danger from people whose reality base is tainted by prejudice, and whose idea of reality doesn’t make a distinction between the actual and the possible, may turn out to be an underestimated threat to our society.