The Fireworks Edition

Independence Day in America. We blow shit up. Ask any American about our Fourth of July traditions, and they’ll tell you ‘fireworks.’ Or maybe ‘beer and fireworks.’ It’s all very patriotic. Especially the beer, assuming that it’s American beer. I haven’t learned yet if Trump is applying tariffs to foreign beer, but American beer is as good as any beer in the world, so it doesn’t really matter. And I’m talking about small, regional breweries, craft beers, not Coors. And it doesn’t matter to me anyway, I stopped drinking two and a half years ago.

Years ago, I asked my coworker Chris Tobin what he was planning to do on his Fourth of July holiday. “I’m a really patriotic guy,” he said, “I’m going to sit in a lounge chair with my beer and watch fireworks.” This is when I learned that beer was integral to patriotism.

But why fireworks? There’s a line in the American National Anthem that goes like this:

And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there…


Photo by Hermes Rivera on Unsplash

Our fireworks are a nod to our National Anthem, The Star-Spangled Banner, which is a song about our flag not our country. America is obsessed with it’s flag. The Stars and Stripes. The ol’ Red, White and Blue. Children, from their earliest ages, are taught (and then forced) to “Pledge Allegiance” to our flag. I won’t do this, because I think it’s stupid.

Frequently, I’m in situations where everyone stands and recites the Pledge of Allegiance. My father-in-law and every boss I’ve had since I moved to Gettysburg are in the local chapter of Rotary International. I find myself going to meetings once or twice a year. Every meeting starts with the Pledge of Allegiance. The non-profit organizations where I’ve worked annually petition the local government to offer public proclamations on the topics for which we advocate. When we’re successful, I attend a county commissioners’ meeting to hear the proclamation read. Each of these meetings start with the Pledge of Allegiance as well.

flagI’m not the type to assign importance to a symbol like the flag. Yes, I’ve been known to get excited about the Maryland flag—the state where I grew up—but that’s because the flag is interesting (the only state flag made up exclusively of coats of arms) and visually appealing. I actually consider Washington DC my home town. I don’t really care about Maryland, just it’s flag.

So, in these meetings when standing to recite the pledge, I do what any good writer would do, I edit. I pare down the pledge to agree with my beliefs:

I pledge allegiance to…the United States of America,… one Nation… with liberty and justice for all.

On Independence Day, when we’re done pledging allegiance and singing about our flag, what’s left is fireworks. It’s hard for me to clearly analyze my thoughts on Fourth of July fireworks. When they are shot-off, I feel a warm, prideful glow. The exact feeling I imagine everyone else gets from the fireworks display. But I’m not sure if I get it from celebrating my nation, or if it’s a conditioned response to something I’ve done fifty-five times while observing those around me. Perhaps I only feel this way because I’m supposed to feel this way. Perhaps, through repetition, I’ve been brainwashed.

Regardless, I’ll go to the Gettysburg firework display tonight. My kids want to go, and like any (older, bigger) kid, I like seeing things blow up, too (Susan, on the other hand will come along to be a good sport but is completely annoyed by firework displays). And before the fireworks, my kids and I will dabble in some homemade pyrotechnics of our own. Long-time readers of this blog know that my son Eli is somewhat obsessed with fire and explosions. This has been chronicled in “Cool S#!t” and “More Cool S#!t”.

Today, we’ll construct a couple of bombs to ignite in honor of the United States’ birthday. First, we’ll attempt a smoke bomb made of stump remover, sugar and baking soda. And after that, we’ll create an explosive flare from black powder and coffee creamer. Remarkably, all of these recipes are right there on the internet for any twelve-year-old or fifty-five-year-old kid to find.

Happy Independence where ever you live.

Peace — Jeff

23 thoughts on “The Fireworks Edition

  1. The fact we do the pledge in chamber of business meetings annoys me, as does the fact we have a prayer after that. I have to go to 4 chamber meetings a month for my job and I really wish we could scrap those two things. Thought-provoking post as always! Hope you have a great holiday 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Most of the rituals I find quite annoying. As someone who wasn’t standing for the national anthem way back in the late 60’s early 70’s as a protest to us involvement in Vietnam, the current malarkey is particularly galling. And exploding bright colors against a night sky is pretty. We will go up on a hill nearby and observe from afar.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I find that I do not have any feelings towards or against saying the pledge of allegiance. Although you made me think why are we spending so much time giving the pledge to a flag. In regards to fireworks, I’m like Susan – my parents never took me to see fireworks and I could care less (and hate the loud sounds). The big kids just go with Bob (bc D hates the sounds too). I do hope you had a happy 4th blowing stuff up with Elli!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Interesting post. I always stand and repeat the pledge out of respect for those who have laid down their lives in respect for the symbolism of the flag, although I leave out the word “indivisible.”

    It’s a Southern thing.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I find the whole pledging allegiance to an object viscerally strange. I like having a common language—and the pledge is a thing we all know. It’s the Rosetta Stone of Americanism. But, taken too seriously as if it’s a sacred vow, I just can’t. Allegiance is mine to give, not America’s to demand. In a republic we should cultivate agreement on common cause not demand blind, unthinking allegiance. For that, I will stand. For the idea that liberty and justice for all is possible when we seek common cause, not assume it already exists because we grew up believing we are all “one nation.” It takes WORK to find what unites us. The idea that we’re born united gives us all a sense that the “one nation” is defined by our own experience of it, rather than it being a moving target of shifting ideas.
    I wonder about a world that makes fewer assumptions and instead asks more questions. What would a pledge to that nation look like? “I pledge allegiance to the greater good, by finding common ground from which those who disagree may find their way through challenges. One nation, where people are not opponents seeking to be right, but instead are advocates for doing what’s right. A nation of individuals seeking liberty and justice for all.” Probably too wordy—but it’s late.
    Thanks for the post, Jeff. As always I enjoy your thoughts.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I would recite your pledge. But millions of school children would groan at the thought of memorizing it. At least they would understand it. I once polled some cub scouts (when my son was one). They had no idea what the pledge meant even though they were forced to memorize it and repeat it weekly.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Isn’t that interesting? Memorizing something like a pledge of allegiance without understanding it isn’t far off from programming a robot to say “I love you.”
        I agree with you though—memorizing my pledge is impossible. Better to live it instead.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. “America is obsessed with its flag”

    IS IT EVER. What is that about? I find it hilarious and bemusing in equal parts to see flags strewn across lawns when I’m over there, like people have forgotten where they live. Little patriotic reminders of where you find yourself at any given moment. The flag here (the tricolour – green for the republic, orange for the unionists in the north, and white in between standing for peace between the two) is beloved on a day like St Patrick’s Day, but the rest of the time it is relegated to government buildings and the like.

    The idea of pride in something that was, in all honesty, out of your hands (where you were born) is a bit of a puzzler, although I think in general patriotism in Europe just reeeeeeally went out of style after WW2. It’s slowly creeping back now but the idea of it makes me uncomfortable. I love Ireland and I like being Irish, but I’m not sure I’d say I’m proud of it, like it’s an achievement. I never lifted a single finger to be Irish. It just happened, thanks to a chance meeting between a Spanish au pair and a flirty Irish lad.

    I could just as easily have been Spanish!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, our obsession with this sort of patriotism is puzzling, although I’ve been know to display the flag on one occasion… in college I had a coffin flag with all the red stripes covered with budweiser labels and all the white stripes covered with bud-light lables (don’t remermber what I did for the stars). During this time I also wore a pin on my denim jacket commemorating the union jack as a nod to the late-seventies, early eighties british punk music invasion. I was a massive Clash fan. Happy summer Quinn. Thanks for reading.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. “Fascism will come wrapped in a flag”, or hugging it as seen recently. I’m all for symbols, as long as people understand that’s what they are, propaganda in an image. As for fireworks, who doesn’t love a sparkly explosion of color?


    • Is that your own quote? I’ve never heard it before and I love it. If I still had my bumper stickered truck I’d get it on a bumper sticker. I doubt a very large percentage of Americans see the flag as propaganda. I actually think the flag-pride thing peaked after 9/11. Now we’re just making sure America’s white again.

      Liked by 1 person

      • It’s been attributed to Sinclair Lewis, but it hasn’t been proven. The full quote is “Facism will come wrapped in a flag and bearing a cross”. There’s a photo of our current Commander in Chief literally hugging a flag. Symbols can be amazing tools, for better or worse.

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s