Historical records indicate that fireworks were used on July 4, 1777 in the first American commemoration of Independence Day. One of my earliest memories was going to see a professional, earth shattering fireworks display coordinated with patriotic music.
A joke from a long-ago Simpson’s episode has always stuck with me. When the store clerk holds up the biggest illegal firework they have and says, “Any red blooded, flag feeding American would love the ‘M-320.’ Celebrate the independence of your nation by blowing up a small part of it.” As with many Simpson’s jokes, it is a tongue and cheek reflection of the absurdity of personal fireworks as if it somehow is a display of patriotism. Later in the episode, Homer exclaims, “everybody stand back while I celebrate freedom” as he lights a huge firework, but mishandles it and it ends up going off in the house.
As a teenager I would look forward to this time of year, when I was able to “experiment” with blowing things up. But the older I got, I began to realize that the main event of the 4th of July wasn’t just the launching of fireworks displays. To truly celebrate the birth of our nation is to be a patriot by positively contributing to our community by helping our people, animals and land.
I mean, that’s what a country is, right? A collection of people who are here, willing to fight for their community, way of life, and natural resources.
So, I beg the question, should we be celebrating Independence Day differently? Are the fireworks the best way to flex our patriotism muscle just because we’ve been doing it that way forever? Maybe showing ‘patriotism’ is not necessarily a reason to simulate the bombs of war.
Since early June, our staff has received multiple complaints about people shooting off fireworks late into the night. And those who shoot them off are assuredly well aware of the problems they cause for pets and the those with PTSD, especially veterans who fought to serve this country. Fireworks for personal use don’t “benefit” anyone who isn’t in on it, like the hundreds of neighbors who are nearby your personal display. Further than the health risks and the old adage “you’ll blow your fingers off” (which does happen more frequently than you’d think), it’s just litter in someone else’s yard in the morning. So, if fireworks are freedom, then they are a freedom to disturb neighbors? To Litter? To hurt yourself? There’s got to be a better way to express the celebration of the date while positively contributing to our nation or at least your neighborhood.
I’m here to propose that if your tradition is using fireworks, keep it respectful to all of us neighbors. If any of this spoke to you, there are plenty of community projects that can be much longer lasting (and a better use of money) than the 3 second fizz, spark and boom of a rocket. I can’t think of any better way to celebrate our great nation and to show the power of patriotism in this great country than to help our environment by cleaning up litter, rather than creating it; helping those in need, rather than putting them out; including others in the community, rather than dividing yourself away from them with your own personal show.