Caution: Contains a disturbing image.
July 4 is a big deal to many Americans. Some people celebrate by gathering the family for a barbecue; others attend civic events or parades. But for an increasing number of my neighbors, Independence Day is an excuse to get drunk and blow things up.
It started at about 4 this afternoon, with a few bottle rockets and an enthusiastically incoherent rendition of America the Beautiful (a bit like this, but without the Italian suits, bodyguards, or background music).
Two hours later the singers had retired — or possibly passed out — and the rockets had gotten bigger. (Because nothing says “freedom” like being scarred for life!)
Then there was a bit of Redneck Ruckus (exactly as advertised), followed by light showers of Acid Rain (“Warning: shoots flaming balls”) …
… and by the time I set out for my evening stroll, my neighborhood sounded like a battlefield.
Although I was uninjured by the bits of ash that pelted me at one point, I still came home rattled and jumpy. That’s when I remembered a photo I saw a couple of days ago:
Fireworks may be a nuisance to most of us, but to some people they’re actually traumatic.
They’re also indisputably dangerous. Here’s the least-disturbing image that turned up when I searched “firework injuries”:
According to the National Fire Prevention Association, in 2011 fireworks caused about 17,800 reported fires. In 2012, U.S. hospital emergency rooms treated an estimated 8,700 people for fireworks-related injuries. And in 2013, that number soared above 11,000.
So … why are these things still legal? Probably because we see them as a “right.” Americans are pretty obsessed with “freedom” and “rights” these days.
But on July 4, when so many of us celebrate our freedom, I wish we’d remember the other half of the equation. In Eleanor Roosevelt’s wise words:
With great freedom comes great responsibility.
You are very wise, indeed. Love the end quote as well–that should be emphasized all throughout school for everyone to master. I think you are right, the (theoretically) safe and sane fireworks and their fully illegal counterparts are everywhere every year. Your guess that they are not banned because they are a “right” is at least part of it. I think another contributing factor is that someone is making money off the trauma.
You’ve hit the nail squarely on the head, Patti! I didn’t want to wade too far into the weeds of capitalism and politics, but money is indeed at the center of it all. (At least that’s why Governor Jesse Ventura legalized fireworks in Minnesota in 1999: http://news.minnesota.publicradio.org/features/199906/30_khoom_boom/?refid=0 ) Sigh.
In more positive news, I’m not sure if you saw my reply about the book giveaway a couple of weeks ago, but you’re a winner! If you’d still like a copy of “How to be an Explorer of the World,” please drop me a note at hmunro (dot) wordpress (@) gmail (dot) com and let me know where you’d like it mailed.
Cheers to you, and hope YOU had a happy Fourth!
Fireworks were illegal in the places I lived in, until recently…I prefer them at a distance. I don’t understand the desire to literally “play with fire”.
After seeing the sometimes-tragic consequences, I also don’t understand why anyone would want to play with explosives. It’s a shame that more cities are making it legal; it seems like such a pointless and dangerous activity. Oh, well. As the saying goes: It takes all kinds.
I’m delighted that you added sound to this post. Did you know that fireworks are one of the most difficult things to record? But you’ve done a great job … and now I have competition. I think I need to up my game!
Ha! I will *never* equal your recording prowess, Des, so there’s no need to “up your game.” But I am quite flattered that you thought the fireworks recorded well. I thought my (fairly agitated) footsteps were a bit loud, though, so I’ll keep that in mind next time I have to outrun my neighbors’ explosives. Grrr.