Booms roll across the night sky, the sound of freedom this time each year. Americans like the idea of blowing things up in a semi-controlled way.
“Seems early,” my wife said to me on hearing a distant concussion last week. But time has a different feel these days.
Pandemic-spawned isolation has skewed our perceptions. The Chiefs’ Super Bowl win in February, that seems like three years ago. The last purchase of tickets to enter a movie theater? Couldn’t even speculate.
So the approach of Independence Day and its accompanying fireworks surprises me little and totally. Time flies, as have the aerial explosives.
Apart from toddlers and the owners of skittish dogs, I must reside in the worst demographic for firework sales. I’m an old guy with no kids or grandkids nearby.
Younger days found me with enthusiasm for such fun, with each small amount of money in my pocket going for bottle rockets and Roman candles and Black Cats.
As a parent, I yielded to requests for holiday noise-making, but I worried about something going awry. I closely supervised their initial lighting of fuses, urging my kids to hurry away.
As they aged, I largely gave up on caution, my concession being the presence of mind to keep car keys in my pocket for any quick trip to the emergency room.
Those times have gone, and my interest these days can be categorized as medium-distance observation, removed enough to not see the ignition but close enough to smell the gunpowder.
American fireworks imports, mostly from China, amounted to about $332 million in 2018, the U.S. Census Bureau reported. Federal statistics also showed that Missouri, Kansas and Nebraska comprised the top three states for fireworks sales per capita, Missouri at nearly $7 a person.
No wonder the bangs and booms of midsummer have commenced early, especially when coupled with the shut-in feeling of many from the viral outbreak.
Yet some Americans have other ideas about the early onset of fireworks this year.
Conspiracy theories have blossomed about explosions at indecent hours in some big cities. Patriotism has nothing to do with the blasts, these skeptical souls say.
Typical of military psychological operations, apparently. Fireworks have been ignited at midnight and later to disrupt the sleep patterns of protesters, to plant in them a sense of disquiet, to thrown them off their game.
In Philadelphia, a summons went out on social media to get residents to document the times and locations of the booms, a database of sonic mischief or, worse, a government plot.
(This always proves amusing since most Americans, if surveyed on the matter, would agree that government operatives lack the organizational capacity to carry out a conspiracy. Let’s give discredit where it’s due and assume the government is not behind this.)
From another angle, doubters lay the disruptive behavior at the feet of George Soros, because, well, he’s a go-to culprit for those looking to pin a conspiracy on liberals.
Of course, he’s 89 and a billionaire, so we can assume you’ll never catch him with an M-80 and a Bic lighter in his pocket. Watch for his henchmen, though.
Often, the simplest solution becomes the best one, and it appears likely that young folks with pent-up energy from quarantine have gone a little trigger-happy when turned loose outdoors. Maybe they followed the health restrictions. And maybe their reaction now is: “Ka-boom.”
A different nation might have celebrated its independence with widespread fife and drum playing. Not us. Enjoy the noise, or at least tolerate it.