Every night at 10 p.m. during Fourth of July week, the pop of firecrackers turns me into a statist. We moved to Indiana from Maryland, where fireworks are illegal, so everyone buys them in Virginia. There, the nice suburban Maryland streets were perpetually quiet as a whisper.
And that’s just the way I like it. We have three little kids who bed down well before nightfall sets a good firecracker backdrop. They are tortuously hard to get to sleep, and they wake to every snap, crackle, and pop, despite the sound-absorbing materials lining their rooms and the noise machine we crank up this week.
I’ve also been a curmudgeon since birth—a personality that seems to afflict many conservatives—and intrusions into my personal space, to say nothing of evidence that other people exist, are highly irritating.
Why we live in a neighborhood, I have no idea. But we do, and our Indiana neighbors are a bunch of pyromaniacs. The first July here, conditioned by Maryland, I called the police department (much to my husband’s embarrassment) to find if, well, wasn’t there a law, or anything? Even in our retiree-filled corner of town fireworks raced about about like a gun battle, at all hours of the night. They must have been out there in the hedges in their wheelchairs. The patient desk sergeant explained, to my astonishment, that these fire-happy Hoosiers are allowed to pop away until midnight every night of the year, and at every hour during Independence Day and New Year’s weeks. Now, our city is pretty city, meaning we have seven local government unions that want to retain “birthday pay” (full pay to not work on the employee’s birthday) and even most Republicans on the town council are willing to let them. Union sucking our children’s blood for personal perks, ehhh. Firecracker restrictions? Hell, no. What kind of Commie are you?
So now every July I face an internal moral dilemma. My predilections are towards individual liberty, even if this allows some people to make bad decisions. But in this case, what all these people do with their freedom is highly and personally aggravating. You try putting three kids younger than four to bed eight times every night for a week.
While I’ve been laying in bed this week still unable to sleep after sucking down two sleeping pills and sticking in my earplugs, I’ve been thinking about how much aggravation I’m willing to endure for the sake of freedom. And that’s where I start to look like a real idiot, because my pain is comical and puny compared to the suffering others have gone through to let me lie in my comfy bed in my comfy home on my comfy street with my children, while antsy, utterly safe from harm. And that’s what Independence Day is all about, right? The people who, long ago, pledged their lives and sacred honor to bring me and my children a country where we can all play at war but rarely ever have to actually execute it. Those firecrackers sound like gunshots, but the great joy is they are not gunshots. No one I love, not even a random neighbor, is being pulled out of bed and threatened with violence (okay, until the U.S. drug-raid cops show up) like people are routinely in Afghanistan and Iran.
And this is no accident. It’s because American ideals actually preserve liberty. The historically American style of governance front-loads the suffering a society endures: People fight for freedom, but their children live in peace. In other places, people passively sacrifice freedom for comfort, and their children live in turmoil. I like the American way better.
So I think enduring the firework craze is a small personal sacrifice I’ll just have to make. It’s the least I can do. My husband’s personal sacrifice is allowing everyone else to drive. His is worse.