A smoldering rage may be all that remains after Gene Cranick's home burned to the ground last week in Obion County, Tennessee.
Firefighters are usually the bold "veni, vidi, vici" sort, but those from neighboring South Fulton could only say "veni, vidi." They came. They watched. That's it.
Cranick lives outside of the city limits and he admits that he forgot to pay a $75 annual service fee that would have provided him with fire protection. Firefighters wouldn't lift a finger, much less the hoses that might have saved the house.
The fire reportedly started in some barrels outside. As the flames crept closer to the home, Cranick says he offered to pay whatever it would take. The plea fell on deaf ears. Hours later, the home was gone.
So were three dogs and a cat.
"They coulda' been saved if they put water on it. But they didn't do it," Cranick told MSNBC.
The South Fulton firefighters did show up and managed to save a neighbor's field. The neighbor had paid the fee. But they would provide no heroics for the Cranicks. A local news report shows them climbing back on their trucks, flames still dancing over what was once the family's home.
The event was dubbed "pay for spray" by MSNBC host Keith Olbermann. It's a chilling vision of what could play out in a third world America, where paying taxes isn't enough to cover basic services. Fire protection, it turns out, is a privilege in some communities. On Monday's show, Olbermann railed against the larger implications the incident, calling it "a look now into the America envisioned by the tea party ... just a preview of what would come in a kind of a la carte government."
As ThinkProgress has noted, there are currently two competing visions of governance in the United States. One, the conservative vision, believes in the on-your-own society, and informs a policy agenda that primarily serves the well off and privileged sectors of the country. The other vision, the progressive one, believes in an American Dream that works for all people, regardless of their racial, religious, or economic background.
The conservative vision was on full display last week in Obion County, Tennessee.
Cranick's wife, Paulette, doesn't blame the firefighters. "They're doing what they are told to do. It's not their fault," she told WPSD.
South Fulton Mayor David Crocker didn't exude compassion when interviewed for the same report, comparing the service to an insurance policy. "Anybody that's not in the city of South Fulton, it's a service we offer, either they accept it or they don't."
A family in Tennessee didn't accept. They lost their home over a $75 fee.