The Fourth of July is a quintessentially American holiday, composed of over-the-top visuals, deafening noise, national self-aggrandizement and victimization of vulnerables, especially dogs, thousands of which will run away, cower in terror, or simply wet themselves.
I may well do the same, as each year, I find myself more averse to these cacophonous, polluting celebrations of the Glory of Us, which also terrorize wildlife, re-traumatize combat veterans, start fires and land thousands of people in emergency rooms.
According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission’s National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, 7,600 of 11,000 fireworks-related injuries in 2016 were treated in hospital emergency departments between June 18 and July 18. Four people died, a noticeable decline from the year before, when 11 Americans perished from fireworks accidents.
To which I can only say: People, we have to do better. If we’re going to put other species through this awful holiday, surely we can at the same time kill off more of ourselves, as keener wits than mine have observed.
“Statistics show that we lose more fools on this day than in all the other days of the year put together,” wrote Mark Twain. “This proves, by the number left in stock, that one Fourth of July per year is now inadequate, the country has grown so.”
Since Twain’s time, fatalities associated with New Year’s Eve fireworks have obviated the need for a second Independence Day. But I’m still blue that a nation with our putative intelligence isn’t enlightened enough to celebrate itself in a way that respects the sensibilities of the vulnerable among and around us. Why not day-time festivals featuring homespun American music and food? Why not night- time laser or light shows to provide awe, without the shock?
The white and the red in my commemoration this year will be chardonnay and a delicate strawberry from my garden patch, imbibed in my basement, where my animals and I – like thousands of other Americans, many likewise tranquilized – will be waiting out the patriotic pyrotechnics. Which — in the Trump era — seem especially a tale told by an idiot: Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
This post originally appeared two years ago. Since then, my foothills community — and other smaller Colorado towns — have canceled such displays, citing finances and fire danger. Now, that’s cause for celebration!