1. It’s still Monday, the 4th of July.
2. It’s a sunny, warm afternoon here in New York’s northern suburbs. It’s quiet. Not a lot of traffic. People are at the park, at home, watching TV, chilling. This seems like a perfect way to celebrate American independence and the freedom to pursue happiness.
3. Alas, all that will end starting in about five hours.
At that point, somebody will remember that they blew $100 on firecrackers and decide, hey, this is a good time to use them.
So, instead of keeping the mellow going, and letting everyone else in the neighborhood keep the mellow going, somebody gets a match and makes noise.
And that’s all they really do.
4. There is nothing constructive or creative about firecrackers. There is nothing pretty about firecrackers. They are not an art form. Other than how to instantly amputate yourself, they serve no educational purpose.
And yet, tonight, to mark 240 years of American freedom, people are going to blow these stupid things up. In the process, they’ll deny many of their fellow citizens all of the following: the right to peace of mind, freedom from fear of scary noises, and sleep.
They’ll even – and anyone who knows me will be shocked to see this – scare the hell out of their and everyone else’s pets, perhaps for days. The Fourth of July might be the only day of the year when dogs and I are in sympathy.
5. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, about 8,000 people spent a part of the month around July 4 in a hospital emergency room. Firecrackers.
One of those 8,000 was New York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul. He blew two fingers off of a hand he needs to get paid millions of dollars to throw quarterbacks to the ground. Firecrackers. He’s not using any this year.
Why do people feel the need to blow things up to celebrate a holiday? How do people derive joy from loud noises? Why do they persist in risking limb and life – 11 people were killed from the nonoccupational use of fireworks, according to the CPSC – to be able to make a boom sounds?
It seems almost primitive, except Heidelberg Man didn’t have firecrackers.
Maybe it’s a love of danger. Loud noises imply danger. Thunder. Cannon fire. Sonic booms. Metallica.
Maybe it’s an American thing. We’re also big on popcorn, the loudest food to make.
I don’t get it. Even if you’ve got this craving for a loud noise, doesn’t it go away after the first one? Doesn’t the excitement of the boom fade after the second, or tenth, or 147th?
6. According to The New York Times, it used to be worse. The paper, citing American Medical Association data, said 1,500 people were killed in fireworks-related accidents in a period between 1903 and 1910. Government regulation and outright bans of sales helped bring that number down.
But, like other things, this is slipping. Some states are more lax about fireworks than others.
Here in the Northeast, Pennsylvania is the haven. So much so that there’s one merchant who advertises fireworks sales just a short drive from New York. Go there, stock up on stuff that you can’t get in the mommy Empire State, and then blow it up – illegally, if need be – wherever you can.
So what does New York do? Crack down on firecrackers from out of state because of the damage they can do to the peace of a community or hurts a bystander?
Nah. The state made it legal for the merchant to come in and sell sparklers, which are only marginally less dangerous than firecrackers. The merchant has set up tents throughout the area where people can stock up on the crap.
I guess we’re losing all that tax money to Pennsylvania, and weak-kneed politicians don’t want it. I’d rather pay more in income tax.
7. Don’t get me wrong. I’m OK with professional fireworks displays. I watch them at Disney World. I watched one at Citi Field the other night after the Mets beat the Cubs (they would have had them anyway, but I just like writing “the Mets beat the Cubs.”) They can be pretty. They can be creative. They can be fun. They can be uplifting.
Firecrackers are worthless. They have no redeeming value. They’re loud and scary and unfair to people (and other creatures) who don’t want to put up with them. They have a high risk of injury and a higher risk of making this a long, sleepless night.
There, there, Fido. We’ll get through it. We usually do. But it still stinks.