QUIET DESPERATION

Oh, fireworks, it’s so bad to hear from you

Column by Craig Marshall Smith
Posted 6/29/20

Choosing a cliché carefully, this essay will probably fall on deaf ears. After all, what would the Fourth of July be without fireworks? For one thing: enjoyable. Maybe this year it will be quieter …

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QUIET DESPERATION

Oh, fireworks, it’s so bad to hear from you

Posted

Choosing a cliché carefully, this essay will probably fall on deaf ears.

After all, what would the Fourth of July be without fireworks?

For one thing: enjoyable.

Maybe this year it will be quieter than usual because of the coronavirus. Perhaps it will be louder for the same reason.

At the age of 8 or 9 I was taken to a community fireworks show in Birmingham, Michigan.

It made my head hurt. I couldn’t understand — and I still don’t — why loud noises entertain so many people.

Loud noises bother me, my dog, other dogs and pets, and many who suffer with post- traumatic stress disorder.

But if there’s one thing the coronavirus has reminded me, considering others is not always a top priority.

We are a ruder society than I ever imagined, and I was already starting out each day with a bowl of blueberries and pessimism before the pandemic.

Author Lynne Truss (“Eats, Shoots & Leaves”) calls this an “age of lazy moral relativism combined with aggressive social insolence.”

Everyone saw the large gatherings without social distancing when gatherings were illegal, and large gatherings without social distancing when they became legal.

If fireworks were just a visual display, as is often the case in films when the floating materials are used metaphorically, I might be able to appreciate them.

But, truth is, they disturb the peace.

Lucky me: The curmudgeon lives near ground zero of the community’s obligatory fireworks display.

It used to be across town; now it’s out the back door.

Name another country that has the word “bombs” in its national anthem.

Take your time.

George Will wrote, “With everyone chatting on cell phones when not floating in iPod-land, this is a time of social autism in which people just can’t see the value of imagining their impact on others. We are entertaining ourselves into inanition.”

Whenever I read Will (he’s gone from The Denver Post), I kept a dictionary handy.

“Inanition” means “a lack of mental and spiritual vigor and enthusiasm.”

Fireworks often exceed 150 decibels.

Boombox, ATV, motorcycle: 96-100.

Chain saw, leaf blower, snowmobile: 106-115.

Sports crowd, rock concert, loud symphony: 120-129.

The Who’s Pete Townshend said his doctor once told him, “Learn to lip read.” Townshend and AC/DC’s Brian Johnson have encountered some hearing damage because of their proximity to loud sounds.

Add: Ted Nugent, who said, “I’ve played over 5,000 concerts and have subjected myself via my mass cravings to massive sonic punishment.”

Johnny Carson would say, “You pay for your thrills.”

After I attended a concert at the Paramount years ago, I couldn’t hear for the next 24 hours. I said “What?” a lot.

I have brought up my dislike of fireworks in the past. I know they will never go away because of anything I say about them.

Fireworks during a concert or after a game appeal to the “mass majority,” as I was once told by a disgruntled reader.

And they are synonym of the Fourth of July, annually my least favorite day of the year. And Harry’s.

One of my favorite quotes, attributed to German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer (who looked like Charles Dickens’ model for Ebenezer Scrooge) said, “The amount of noise which anyone can bear undisturbed stands in inverse proportion to his mental capacity.”

Humbug.

Craig Marshall Smith is an artist, educator and Highlands Ranch resident. He can be reached at craigmarshallsmith@comcast.net.

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