Smokey Bear Is A JerkPosted: March 9, 2015
I was driving along a rural road on Saturday. It was a pretty ride, through a heavily treed area. It was at the entrance to a fire road, appropriately enough, that I saw the sign with Smokey Bear’s image on it. Next to Smokey was his famous slogan:
“Only you can prevent forest fires.”
Over the next few miles I considered how awful forest fires are – the trees and animals that are lost; the cost in destroyed property and lives. I’m a live and let live kind of guy. But if you asked where I stand on forest fires, I’d say that I oppose them.
It’d probably be a safe assumption that someone who is against forest fires is also pro-Smokey Bear. That’d be a safe assumption; but in my case it’d be a false assumption.
I think Smokey Bear is a jerk.
Smokey Bear Is Wearing Me Out
I am not the only one who can prevent forest fires. I have a role in preventing them, but other folks bear responsibility in the matter. I resent Smokey for making me solely responsible for preventing these dangerous fires. It is a fallacy to put any one person in charge of preventing forest fires, as Smokey has very clearly done since I was a child.
The effect of the pressure Smokey Bear has put on me is showing. My beard is going grey. My hair is thinning and what is left seems to want to follow the greying example of my facial hair. I have wrinkles. Decades of responsibility for millions of acres of woodlands is wearing me out.
The guilt I feel when I hear about a forest fire is crushing. A west coast wildfire depresses me for weeks; I feel as if I let people down. “Only I could have prevented that”, I think, “if only I’d been a little more vigilant.”
I tell myself that I’m just one guy, that I can’t possibly monitor every patch of woods in the United States. But then I think of old Smokey’s words as he put me in charge – “Only you can prevent forest fires”.
You Can’t Fire Me, I Quit
I’m unsure why I felt that a bear that wears jeans and a ranger hat was authorized to put me in charge of preventing forest fires. Perhaps I tend to defer to authority figures. I’ll need to figure that out.
All the same, I took on the responsibility that Smokey brought to bear upon me. For decades, I tried to meet that responsibility. I also accepted the stress that came with the responsibility. I was moderately successful at preventing forest fires. But it’d be dishonest of me to deny that thousands of acres of timber burned on my watch.
Well, Smokey, I can’t take the pressure. Other people can prevent forest fires too. Am I quitting? Let me put it this way – does someone like you crap in the woods?