Monday, July 05, 2010

the fourth weekend here in southern illinois and the southeast missouri was clear and hot, drier than usual but still muggy compared to, say, arizona. the roads in missouri were full; trucks pulling four-wheelers, race-cars, police pulling people over, police helping stranded motorists whose cars had caught on fire, etc. busy, full, fast and crowded; i had always considered missouri a fourth-of-july kind of place, since there are large "fireworks" signs at virtually every entrance to the state. i object to the close association of violence to the holiday though, and also the glorification of violence in the form of making it colorful, beautiful, an object of adoration.

I do, however, take my kids to the local fireworks display, because what are you going to do, have them tell everyone they're not allowed? i feel it's better, in a way, to have them see me around it, and see my attitude, and see that i'm not afraid of it, and i can even celebrate the holiday, in my own kind of way, and take it as an offering, however misguided, of the city, in honor of the birth of the country. it's important to think about the country, what it is, where it's going, what its problems are, and i've done this, and appreciate friends who help in the process. but when it comes right down to sitting there, blowing things up, listening to explosives in our ear, that kind of confuses the issue.

nevertheless, that's where we were, on a hillside, overlooking the town's display, as it got dark, and people near us were using sparklers and a kind of fireworks sword-gun; off on the horizon, people were blowing off crackers that competed pretty well with what the city had to offer. that's the problem with a small town: what the city budget could provide, was not all that much stronger than what a handful of fireworks-prone locals could get in missouri, and it was sometimes hard to tell them apart. one son wanted sparklers and wanted to know when we could get some for him. the other, five, yelled and screamed the minute the first city cracker went off; he demanded to go back to the car, go find his mom, get out of there immediately if not sooner. i did. i had another friend and an older son to watch the other boys, and i took the little one back to the van, where we watched the last of the display from behind closed windows, at least on his side. he recovered his composure and actually enjoyed part of it, when he finally believed me that it would all be ok.

regular readers of this blog probably know that it's not always ok; that one year i got hit in the temple with a firecracker, and that same year (the bicentennial year) i saw an innocent spectator injured by a cracker that landed poorly in the middle of a crowd. this year i didn't witness any actual injuries, though i heard about some whoppers, including one involving a girl who stuck one in her mouth at the urging of brothers or someone. of course it's part of the rural culture to not only learn how to be responsible with such things but also to tell such stories to ensure that everyone around you learn how to be responsible; that's a matter of survival, and almost everyone ends up at these parties way out in the country, or even right in town, where people are blowing up hundreds of dollars of missouri-bought, power-laden explosives. the smell of gunfire lingers not only over the park, but also over the entire town, and even the area; the wind has died down, and the hot clear night settles in the valley; by daybreak, they survey the damage, and clean it up.

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