A very unsafe Fourth of July.
1776 was also very unsafe.
Safetyism is wearying.
That’s a word I’ve started seeing pop up. It’s much better than safedouchery, the portmanteau I came up with. Whatever you want to call it, it’s that cultural slide into fearing the exercise of freedom by trying to couch it in safety.
Stay safe, stay controlled.
Stay safe, stay where we can track you.
Stay safe, keep your social credit score healthy.
For the most part, unless you have an actual death wish, are drunk, or are too young to understand the limits of your mortality and health insurance, you try to do things safely. Sometimes we don’t agree on what’s safe, and that’s the uncomfortable realm where personal liberty overlaps and we either have fisticuffs or courts. (Or, as seen in the past couple of years, executive orders.)
I’m not an unsafe person. I wear seatbelts and drive speed limits. I don’t pet the buffalo in the national parks. But the public service push to do this and that and the other thing, all to be safe and completely restricted, has numbed me enough we’re I’m tempted to go YOLO.
One of the best things about this past Fourth of July was it was totally unsafe.
By that, I mean unsafe by today’s safetyism standards, but pretty safe by normal standards from earlier years of my life when we did things like ride horses without saddles or helmets, racing across the fields.
We’d had a multi-day family camping event at Icelandic State Park, and had gotten our fill of geocaching, campfires, and all the Icelander culture you could take. On the evening of the July 4th, most of us headed north a short drive to Walhalla, North Dakota. There, in the parking lot of a hotel and attached c-store, they had a flatbed trailer covered in big boxes of fireworks. The c-store basically lit off all the fireworks they didn’t sell; that was what they did for the community each year, from what I understand.
This was a fairly small area for what was actually a pretty big fireworks show.
People were parked a bit away from the fireworks in a roped off edge of the same parking lot. The distance seemed pretty arbitrary, probably about as effective of the arbitrary 6 feet drilled into our brains lately. Behind them was a main highway that went through the town, followed by an expanse of someone’s broad lawn.
We parallel parked along the highway across from the parking lot, and leaned up against the truck to watch the fireworks. My little grand-nephews had tiny lawn chairs and sat between the cars, eating parade candy. Cars for the most part slowed down a bit as they drove along the highway, but, you know…highway.
While we were waiting for the show to get started, the lawn and streets filled with people. I watched as a group of kids climbed up on the roof of a small shed. Others darted across the road to the c-store to get snacks.
A sudden boom caused us all to jump and then duck as a group of kids tipped over the small fireworks they’d lit, causing a sparkling green explosion to pop right in the crowd, shooting sparks through the tree and over our heads. I saw their mom galloping over to them so I imagined they had a sore bottom not long after it.
There are fireworks accidents, I get that; several family members explained how many of the worst ones were from sparkler bombs, even providing detail on how to make such a thing. I’ll probably pass on that.
The green pre-show pre-teen explosion got the already excited crowd all the more primed. It was a cool evening with just enough breeze to keep the mosquitoes away. People were talking and laughing as the sun dropped and the high overcast sky brought the darkness in all that much sooner.
A young fellow walked out to the center of the parking lot, holding high a hockey stick with an American flag attached to the end. They’d been playing patriotic music through a portable radio, but when the flag was raised on that hockey stick, we went through the national anthem.
When the song was over, people clapped and cheered.
Next, the show organizers attempted to light a few Chinese lanterns. Three out of four made it, but watching them struggle with the fourth was gold. Perhaps the person lighting it didn’t realize that you didn’t have to shake it out like a garbage bag, but it soon became a flaming mass of blue paper, right there next to the flatbed full of fireworks. They trotted behind the trailer and stomped it out.
It was glorious in its unsafety, frankly, much more impressive than the three that wafted up into the air.
And then they started to light off all those fireworks on that flatbed trailer—endless fireworks—and I tell you, I’ve never stood so close to that large of a fireworks display in my life.
When it was over, my friend and I hopped into the truck and drove back to the campground.
“That was awesome,” I said. We both felt exhilarated, as if maybe 1776 wasn’t so far in the rearview mirror after all. We were five miles from the Canadian border, and I couldn’t be more happy to be an American in North Dakota after the past three years of global tyranny than I was in that moment.
“Be safe. We have rules and executive orders against that. If you want to do this, then you have to do that. We won’t allow you to do that, but you can do this on our terms. Some of you aren’t essential so we will have to shut you down if we think it’s dangerous to let you stay in business. Only some of you are allowed to travel or keep your jobs unless you do as we say. All for your benefit, for your safety, for your welfare. We have signs everywhere telling you where to stand, who can come in, what you have to put on, what you have to put in you, how you should clean your hands. We need a percentage of the money you earn. We have to track some of you because you have dangerous ideas. Let us take care of you and if you won’t, we’ll make you let us anyway. We will control the information you’re allowed to consume for your safety.”
The response that night?
“We see your rules, your safety recommendations, and we raise you a Wild West fireworks show with a highway running through it and a flaming Chinese lantern, where people can park and stand wherever they want, dirty hands and naked faces and all.”
1776, indeed. If ever we needed one, it’s now.
I’m so sick of the hateful nanny state of taxes and restrictions and controlled safety and constant push to be aware of the latest unsafe dangerous thing, of phones alerting me to potential viral exposures and billboards screaming at me to get tested and wash hands. (If you really want to make a difference, put a guy in the men’s restroom and make sure every guy washes his hands when he’s done. I hear that’s rare and that’s a good place to really change civilization.)
In the past for July Fourth, we’d go to a nice, tidy fireworks show at the state capitol with the woke symphony playing appropriate music while the fireworks were lit by professionals from a safe distance, but after 2020, 2021, and 2022, that’s the last thing I wanted.
Bombs (of sorts) bursting in air, the smell of gunpowder and fire and smoke wafting about with people’s whoops and aaahs all mixed in.
It felt like the start of a new Independence Day, up there in Walhalla, and I was glad to have been there.
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