Look, we like a good fireworks show. Everyone does. Done well, it can be a beautiful sight and reinforce in all of us a childlike wonder and swell our hearts with civic pride. Because, when they are done well, they give the appearance of lights and explosions in a secure setting. Fireworks shows have police, fire departments, they are run by professionals, and are under control from beginning to end. They let you know that you live in a safe, orderly town – the kind of place that can gather citizens together, give them a patriotic show, and see them safely home.
That is what we get from legal fireworks displays. Illegal fireworks, on the other hand, provide none of these things. They are instead a testament to a city’s lack of control, to a sense of lawlessness, to a shared sense of civic scorn. If you have to go to work in the morning, they are a loud and smelly nuisance. If you have pets, the days or weeks leading up to a firework-y holiday can become tormenting. And, when they are going off all around you with little to no recourse, in the midst of a scorching hot and dry summer where you could basically start a fire by sneezing, they are downright dangerous.
So, when the City Manager lamely said that the city would take a stand after it was too late to do anything proactive, he knew that any response would be slipshod, half-assed, and reach a minimum of the city’s explosions. The City bragged that they responded to 160 complaints on the evening of the 4th, with 8 citations. Yup, a whopping five percent of the tiny fraction of people who actually bothered to complain saw something happen. Eight individuals got $25 citations, pennies on the dollars they had no doubt paid for their explosives. So, you know what those 8 people did? Yup, they waited for the police to leave, and they went back outside and kept blowing stuff up.
And the City bragged about it.
The City put on a fireworks display that lasted for weeks, went on all night on the 4th, and continued for days afterward. It may not have conveyed the warm sense of civic pride that you might hope to get from this kind of show, but it definitely sent a message.