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Posts Tagged ‘responsibilities’

Happy 4th of July!

Enjoy your celebrations today, but as you do, I’d like you to think about a couple of things.

This isn’t going to be a heavy-handed patriotic post. Although it is always good to remember the difficulties that many of the revolutionaries suffered to bring this nation to fruition, this little rant is about something else. I want you to think about the clash of individual rights that will inevitably occur today, and how the seemingly innocent actions of one person can create fear and distress in another.

Yep. I’m talking about fireworks and noise makers.

I like a well choreographed light show as much as the next person. I remember sitting on the roof of our first home in Tucson to watch the fireworks display from “A” Mountain. It was great – sitting in lawn chairs on the flat roof of the carport, beverage in hand, watching the show as the radio station played the music and loudspeaker announcements. In a way, it brought much of Tucson together. Even if we weren’t up at the mountain, we could all see and hear the same thing at the same time. You could tell which other households in your neighborhood were watching by the timing of the “oohs” and “ahhs” you’d hear around you.

Of course, the other reason we sat on the roof those evenings was to make sure that our neighbor didn’t burn down our house with his (very legal) fireworks. Every year we had to put out a spark or two on our side of the fence (one year that little spark was on the roof – good thing we were, too). He was always very apologetic, of course, but that didn’t make the danger any less real.

The risk of burning down your neighbor’s house is one issue that, with current fireworks laws in most states, is becoming less of a threat. Assaulting your neighbor with noise, however, is still an All-American past time.

I get the appeal to go out and buy whatever legal fireworks are available in your area. I liked sparklers when I was young, just like any other kid. We like explosives, and I don’t think that is just an American thing. People like to blow stuff up (that’s why shows like Mythbusters are so popular). I’m simply asking you to think about how the noise you make will affect other people. Wildlife (yes, your neighborhood has wildlife) become startled by big noises. Birds will fly away from their nests, staying away for a while to keep their young safe from the perceived threat. Squirrels, opossums, raccoons and other such critters are more likely to run in panic and get hit by cars or seek shelter under your house or in your garage.

Infants don’t like big noises, nor do most domestic animals. Shelters fill up on July 4th and 5th with dogs and cats that ran terrified from noises in their neighborhoods. Which is why my dog will be sedated (the shrill, whistling fireworks hurt his ears and he gets panicky) and the cat will be safely locked in the house.

It isn’t just babies and pets that suffer. Combat vets often have problems with loud noises, especially if they haven’t been back from their tour of duty for very long. Victims of gun violence don’t like the big bangs we get from cheap fireworks. These folks will know in advance, certainly, that tonight will be noisy. But to all of you who start setting off fireworks a week in advance, and who continue to set them off for a week afterward, those loud noises are not expected and can be problematic for some people. Put yourself in their situation: Pretend you just had major surgery and feel like hell. All you want to do is sleep. But some yahoo in the neighborhood keeps setting off one firework at a time (more and he might get caught by the cops). The noise gets your dog barking and the neighbor’s baby crying. Not fun, is it?

Enjoy your celebration. You have the right to buy and use legal fireworks, and I’m not asking you to completely forgo their use. But think about how your actions affect people around you, and remember that every right comes with an attendant responsibility.

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