I love a good fireworks display. I really do. Always have. The kinds of displays put on by professional pyrotechnicians have never ceased to thrill me. I love the power of the concussive force as the cartridges explode in a myriad of colors and patterns in the sky. When I was a kid I loved the Fourth of July and could not wait for one or the other of my parents to take me to a fireworks display.
These days, my love of professional pyrotechnics is confined to New Year’s Eve, when I’d sooner suck on a salt lick than sit at home alone, missing the celebrations! Why a salt lick? I don’t know. It’s just the first thing that came to mind. So many of the professional Fourth of July fireworks shows that I once loved have been called off due to expense and the ones that are still in effect are a lot of trouble to get to for a 20 minute display followed by a 90 minute trip home because of the amount of traffic (on a school night, no less.)
As I write this, I’m sitting naked in my non-air conditioned apartment with the doors and windows open, because it’s been too hot to have the place closed up, and I imagine what it might have been like to live in any number of places in “The Gulf” during our many attacks on the “bad guys”, which is to say that on this night, every year, I feel as though I’m living in a war zone. It starts in the early afternoon and will continue until well after I go to bed; a constant bombardment of explosions and sizzles and bangs. Noises that, only because of what day it is, are brushed off (mostly) as the sounds of some unwise, amateur pyrofile getting his (or her) jolly’s, but on any other day would prompt me to pause the television and wait for the sounds of the sirens that one would expect to follow gunfire in the neighborhood.
I hate this, immensely.
Maybe it’s because I remember watching my father holding roman candles IN HIS HANDS while they shot off their seven or eight colored orbs into the night sky. Maybe it’s because I never got over the fear of being burned while holding a thin wire with sparks shooting off of it in my own hands (what sense does that make, I ask you?)
Maybe it’s because I live in what some might consider the Murder Capital of the United States (certainly of California) and the sound of gunshots is neither uncommon, or comforting, and it can be difficult to differentiate between a hand gun and rampart.
Maybe it’s because I live in a place where most of the time, everything is so dry that it will catch fire if you look at it sideways. Maybe it’s because I watch the news and hear the stories that are inescapable of the various types of injuries and even deaths that take place every year as unqualified and unintelligent people operate fireworks IN MY FRONT YARD (figuratively. I don’t have a yard, just a driveway and a crowded street.)
Maybe it’s because I’ve learned enough in my EMT training to not be cavalier about the possibilities on a night like this (and fully expect that if ever I get a job as an EMT I’ll never have the Fourth of July off work again).
Maybe it’s because I’m an egalitarian and amateur fireworks within city limits are simply illegal.
Whatever the reason, I’ve grown to hate this night, in which I will get no sleep (this raucous will continue until the wee hours of the morning) and I will have to fight hard against my nature to become angry because hundreds of people, who I do not know, have decided to take it upon themselves to take away my choice, my freedom (on Independence Day no less) to have a good nights sleep, free of noise polluted disruption, free of fear at whom might be dying from gunshot wounds (the sound of which might be mistaken for fireworks), free of fear that my house might randomly catch fire from a stray, or misdirected rocket, well into the early morning hours.
This is not what Francis Scott Key had in mind when he wrote “The rockets red glare, the bombs bursting in air, gave proof through the night…”