We got to talk about this birthday party of yours, America.
July 4th, as holidays go, is fine. It’s nice to get a day off that is, for whatever reason, too sacrosanct to “observe” on a Monday, unless it falls on a Saturday or Sunday. It’s nice to have a second midsummer holiday. There’s a whole lot of baggage to celebrating the day: some people signed a piece of paper a long time ago that declared a bunch of things that applied to some people and not to other people, none of which is the point of this column. I also enjoy cooking food on the grill. I’m not a monster.
That being said: I think at 247 years old it’s high time for America to outgrow throwing itself the same party every year. I have basically a three-part argument for this, most of which is probably going to be reasonably appealing to an audience from Forest Park, so don’t stress about reading on.
Part 1: I am no longer sure how I feel about celebrating anything by giving the sensory impression that we are taking heavy enemy fire. Rockets’ red glare and bombs bursting in air and all that other outdated horsecrap is a lot less funny when a firework goes off when you’re standing on the train platform and everyone thinks, “Is this it? Is it time to take shelter? Is it some kid with a black cat? If you heard the shot, it didn’t hit you, right?”
I don’t leave a lot of space on this one for the things that are obviously too large to be small arms fire either, though I’m willing to entertain the argument that we are not yet into the car bomb and suicide-vest phase of declining civilization. I don’t know if we skipped that unit in Nation School or if we just like loud noises and the smell of cordite, but I got to tell you I can think of better ways to celebrate then pretending that we are actually taking cannon fire.
Part 2: The risk of injuring oneself from fireworks would seem to take some of the excitement and joy out of the whole thing. Interspersed with all of the exploding around July 4th is a lot of sirens and some very crowded emergency rooms. Why we didn’t take Jason Pierre-Paul, the New York Giant who blew off a good chunk of one hand a couple of years ago, and turn him into a national spokesman for a “Why Would You Do This To Yourself?” campaign, I have no idea. You can’t buy a pack of cigarettes without someone giving you the stinkeye, but you can set off a box of dynamite in your backyard and declare that you’re celebrating America? C’mon. Why don’t we just fire our automatic weapons in the air jubilantly? It’s not that different.
Part 3: All right, I’m going to confess that this is the part that makes me maddest. I had to pad out the rest of the column with Parts 1 & 2 because I write about dogs often enough, but fireworks are inhumane. A decent country should not celebrate its birthday with lavish and prolonged acts of animal cruelty. The number of tranquilizers I had to pour into my friend Leia so she could survive the July 4th weekend with anything approaching sanity — even by the standards of a Staffy — is a dose that should give anybody pause. Hunter Thompson wouldn’t take this many drugs passing a couple weeks in Vegas.
The degree of misery that we visit on beloved friends who do not have the slightest idea 1) what is going on, 2) what America is, and 3) why we celebrate its birthday by being mean to them is beyond even my ability to describe in metaphor. I understand that this is a nation that gives annual thanks for all of the blessings visited upon us by engaging in the greatest ritual animal slaughter in the history of the world (a slaughter in which I enthusiastically and greedily participate, mind you, this is not some sort of PETA screed), but doing something entirely optional that makes dogs beyond miserable is increasingly something I find unconscionable.
Dogs! I should not have to coax my trembling bestie out from under the bed with cookies after a holiday weekend so we can go to the park. This is — there is no other expression for it — not okay. I don’t want to be shrill at people who are setting off fireworks over their lack of safety or sense. Those frailties are their business. But I do want to go to them with video footage of cowering pets and say, “I just want you to know, this is what your ‘harmless fun’ is doing to my friend.”
This being America, of course, I am pretty confident most of them wouldn’t care. But we do what we can.
Happy birthday, America.