Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Rocket's red glare

For the last month, the supermarket I frequent has had racks and racks of fireworks on display and of course the local fireworks store - a rather large one - is having a two for one sale today. The local newspaper has a front page article on how to use fireworks safely.   

The firecrackers, the sparklers, the small bottle rockets, pinwheels and other things you can fill your shopping basket with are, of course quite a bit smaller and less dangerous than the artillery your town or city are likely to be using  to light up the sky and they're probably set off remotely by professionals, but making smoke and noise on the 4th of July is still well ingrained in our tradition even now that candles are so lethal we're advised never to use them, burning leaves in the fall is highly illegal ( even though shooting a gun in your back yard no longer is in Florida) and every TV show or advertisement that shows anyone driving a car has to have a disclaimer advising us that only trained professionals on a closed course should ever, ever drive fast enough to make the fallen autumn leaves rustle.  A show about Alaskan bush pilots I often watch begins with the warning never, ever, to fly planes "at home."   Seriously.

I have to think it's sad that the fondest memories I have of childhood: riding my new Raleigh  for endless unsupervised miles with the wind in my hair and without body armor, the smell of burning leaves in October, of gunpowder in July -- things like riding beltless and booster seatless in Dad's new MG when I was 9, these are all things that could get you arrested today. Today when life is so dull and safe we retreat into a violent virtual world, when kids are afflicted with lethal allergies because they never encountered a bacterium until they were 25 and can be expelled from school for carrying a nail clipper or an aspirin tablet.

Yes, for sure  -- some Budweiser addled, shoeless swamp cracker will hold a firecracker too long today and blow off a finger and some kid will burn his hand with a sparkler, but I'll guarantee a bunch of people will be killed on jet skis and in boats, will drown at the beach and drive their cars under the influence and kill someone coming home from the municipal fireworks show, but that we really aren't going to be asked to ban boats, beaches or beer. Not yet, anyway.

Coming from Illinois, of course -- a state where your car can be confiscated if sparklers are found in your trunk ( but not a firearm) -- it still takes me aback that one can be a criminal so vile and loathsome  that your neighbors will shun you in one place and in another place,  sometimes right across the state line, you're just an ordinary, law abiding citizen with a good shot at running for mayor.

I saw on TV just the other day, that Chicago has seen more than a 35% increase in violent murders lately, while New York as had a 17% decrease.  Seeing as both cities have the most severe gun control laws in the country, I'm interested to know how the "ban it" people are going to explain it all by the need for more and stricter bans.  Of course the current Chicago crime wave is the result of  our fiercely defended 'substance' bans which finance gangs and gang wars,  just as it was during Prohibition when anyone could buy a Thompson submachine gun, or "Chicago typewriter" at the hardware store but a beer would land you in the slammer.

A cynic might be tempted to claim that bans are better at causing crime than at preventing it, but although I'm tempted to agree, I'm cynical enough to think that such an observation wouldn't persuade anyone that I'm not a terrorist and a public menace for having bought sparklers along with the Bratwurst yesterday or that I enjoy an occasional afternoon at the shooting range.  I'd really like to give my grandson a ride in my Corvette too, but alas. . .

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