Editor's Column: We could do worse than fireworks

Each year many people demand that fireworks be banned and each year they fail. This is surprising to some because fireworks start fires, scare pets, and occasionally de-digit those who play with fireworks. Such obvious dangers are offset by a single fact that opponents have never tried to overcome — fireworks are a lot of fun. Because the majority of people don’t want to lose their own fun, or deprive their offspring of fun, demands that fireworks be banned always fizzle.

Fireworks opponents won’t win unless they can come up with a suitable substitute — something just as fun but less prone to burn down forests and houses. Pop-guns, noise-makers and the like are fine for New Year’s Eve when celebrations occur indoors, but they fall flat under the open skies. Independence Day calls for a spectacular celebration, something only fireworks can readily supply.

Oldtimers used to make do with bonfires, an idea we could bring back. Pile driftwood along the shores of Oak Harbor Bay and torch the piles at sunset July 4. Flames would be licking the sky all around the bay, and the shadows of celebrants would dance against the tideflats. But the fire department would probably have apoplexy, the Puget Sound Air Pollution Authority would cite everyone in attendance, and we’d all be jailed for burning on the beach without a permit. We don’t even have a stadium to serve as huge jail, so the bonfire idea probably won’t work.

Other cultures find that mass alcohol consumption is all you need for a celebration. Oktoberfest in Germany comes to mind. Oak Harbor could open huge beer tents on the 4th of July, which would increase tourism by one thousand percent even without a $40,000 tourism enhancement plan. Free tourism advice: “Serve mass quantities of beer in tents at Windjammer Park.” Unfortunately, we’re a society that condones drinking only if you pay monthly dues to an exclusive club and beer tents don’t qualify.

Another possible firework substitute is a gun. Our freedom-loving friends in Iraq, and the budding democrats in Palestine, simply use guns to celebrate. This is easy for them as they only have to points their guns into the air rather than toward the infidels and they’re in celebration mode. Saddam Hussein used to pack a rifle and shoot it into the air to celebrate.

Guns are less likely to start a fire than fireworks, but it’s hard to imagine gunplay replacing firecrackers and bottle rockets. We probably don’t want 10,000 people packing heat to town for the 4th of July celebration, and all that falling lead would result in safety concerns. People attending the Oak Harbor 4th of July Gunworks Show, for example, would have to wear helmets, goggles, chin protectors, nose guards and Kevlar vests. Probably too big an investment to expect. Besides, all that lead would pose a danger to migratory birds and, once again, we’ll all end up on the wrong side of the environmental laws.

Considering the alternatives, maybe fireworks aren’t so bad. If you’re bothered by the noise this weekend, consider the alternatives: Hundreds of blazing bonfires, thousands drunks staggering around towns, or a curtain of bullets falling from the sky.

Makes our traditional 4th look pretty good, doesn’t it?

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