No sooner have I settled in for another night of The Bachelor on TV when suddenly my dog, fear in her eyes and shaking uncontrollably, jumps on my chest and plants her butt on my chin. If it’s July or August, it must be some clown in my neighborhood shooting off fireworks again.
I loved fireworks as a kid. My dad would take us out to Long Island Sound and watch the town fireworks display as the boaters honked at the really good ones. It’s fun to see a child’s face light up when the finale goes longer than expected. Kids wished we could have these displays every night.
I’m not a kid anymore though, and part of growing up is developing the empathy required of every decent person to realize the impact of one’s actions upon others. Unfortunately, each year proves that some of our neighbors never grew up. These are the ones who light up their backyard fireworks well before and after the Fourth of July.
I’m not against celebrating the holiday with fireworks, I just feel that celebration should actually accompany the holiday itself. When you’re shooting them off from your driveway in June or late July, you’re just being a jerk. Having to peel my terrified dog out from under the bed and watch her suffer is a lousy way to “celebrate” our independence from England, but I realize it’s a tradition. I expect them a few days before and after July 4 (or whenever the town schedules its own display). That’s because we all expect them then. When people decide to set off these explosions at other times, they’re basically admitting they just couldn’t care less what they put their neighbors through.
Beyond the needless pain these people inflict on pets every year, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that seven or eight out of every 100 Americans will have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) at some point in their lives (over eight million adults suffer from it during any given year). These numbers jump significantly for combat veterans. The means that the same people who thank veterans for their service don’t seem to consider that their fireworks displays might be triggering the worst memories of that service.
Again, however, it’s easier to deal with fireworks when there’s an established period in which we can expect them. (Just as it’s also easier when they end at a reasonable hour.) Fireworks around July 4 is a custom; at any other time, it sounds like gunfire.
Deciding to propel explosions into the sky can be considered a decidedly selfish act; one group’s entertainment comes at the cost of a much larger, often unsuspecting, group. It’s a trespass, plain and simple, unless permission is granted by all who have to endure it. In fact, it ought to be against the law.
Oh, wait, it is against the law! Fireworks other than sparklers and fountain discs are illegal in Connecticut. Even novelty items such as party poppers, snakes, smoke devices (anything that emits flame) are not allowed. So not only are these late-summer displays obnoxious, they’re also a crime.
More importantly, what have you done to earn a fireworks display in late July? Unless you’ve just scored the winning goal in the World Cup or come back from a moon landing, you should probably be happy with popping the cork on a bottle of champagne. Let the rest of us get some sleep, already.