Snap, Sizzle, Pop…It’s the Fourth of July

Something About Nothing by Julie Seedorf

Published in the Albert Lea Tribune the week of July 3, 2017

14687804116_c553cd4dc4_zI don’t love fireworks, but I don’t hate them either. I think they are fun and pretty, and I have many memories of my childhood of Fourth of July with my dad and his love of Black Cat firecrackers.

I think there are a time and place for fireworks — celebrations, and of course the Fourth of July, but I would differ with people on the time or place.

One of my dad’s favorite activities with the Black Cat firecrackers was making a hole in a tin can, setting a firecracker in the hole, setting it in a pan of water and seeing how high in the air the firecracker would blow the can. When I was a kid, fireworks of almost any kind were illegal except for sparklers, and if I remember right,  small firecrackers and snakes might also have been legal. Penalties were different in those days. If the police caught you with firecrackers you were given a warning not a fine — at least that is what happened to my family and friends.

On the Fourth of July, we would travel to my dad’s farm, have a bonfire and shoot our fireworks. Probably many of them were illegal fireworks. I suppose it could be said that we were being told one time a year it was fine to break the law. We never talked about it but if I think about it now, it goes into that gray area where we choose what we want our kids to believe about honesty and following the law.  However, most of my family and friends found a countryside to shoot fireworks. Half of that was because of the law and half was because of respect for our neighbors.

I still remember visiting my son in Omaha one July Fourth. They had a watering ban because it was so dry and people would be fined for watering lawns. It was also illegal to shoot fireworks in the city of Omaha. But that was a law everyone ignored, so on the morning of the Fourth, the paper’s headlines were: If you are going to shoot fireworks please water your lawns. The fireworks started in the neighborhood around 8 a.m. and continued until about 2 a.m. the next morning. It wasn’t little fireworks, but many were the kind you see at events. The next morning the street sweeper cleaned the streets as it looked like it had snowed fireworks, and the street and lawns were covered with debris. It was a fun day because it was expected, and people knew what was going to happen.

The past few weeks around 11 or 11:30 p.m. loud booms could be heard in our neighborhood and other neighborhoods in our community. Facebook comments lit up in protest of the noise so late at night. Dogs and cats got scared and caused problems for their owners. Small children woke from their sleep scared, and those who suffer from PTSD almost took cover. Many veterans, no matter how long it has been, dive for shelter when they hear the noise because it brings back memories from their time in the war. It was an inappropriate time for fireworks because it was unexpected.

People felt there was a lack of respect for their neighbors. It is easier on veterans, children, and pets if you can prepare for the event that might shake their world. I know we can’t always prepare for the unexpected but in this case, trauma can be avoided by warning your neighbors, waiting until the actual day, or taking your fireworks into the country and an open area where others will not hear.

It is Independence Day and we should be celebrating. Fireworks are fun but remember to be careful is also a part of shooting off fireworks. Kids love fireworks. My grandkids are excited about this holiday. My husband and I will be staying home because he is one of those veterans who wants to take a dive when they hear the sound. We do not go to firework events. I remember the first time I was with him when we were dating, and fireworks started at an event. He almost pulled me straight to the ground on the pavement. Years later, the sound still sometimes triggers that feeling.

Enjoy your day. Have fun, be respectful and show your pride in being an American. We do live in a great land.

 Julie Seedorf’s column appears every Monday. Send email to her at hermionyvidaliabooks@gmail.com

Celebrating Our Freedom

14687804116_c553cd4dc4_zThis is from my column in the Albert Lea Tribune on July 4, 2016. I believe we are so fortunate to live where we live and have the freedoms we do.

Rapper 50 Cent was arrested for swearing in public during a performance in St. Kitts in the Caribbean. In the United States we have the freedom to use whatever language we choose in public.

In the United States it is not illegal to burn the flag. In Argentina, Article 222 of the Penal Code criminalizes public desecration of the national flag, coat of arms, national anthem or any provincial symbol imposing one to four years of imprisonment.

We have the right to bear arms. In the People’s Republic of China gun ownership is heavily regulated and private citizens are not allowed to possess guns and penalties for arms trafficking include death.

It is the Fourth of July, Independence Day. I wonder how many of our young people know the reason for our holiday. Independence Day is a federal holiday celebrating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, by the Continental Congress. It was declared on this day in 1776 that the 13 American colonies regarded themselves as a new nation. We became the United States of America, separating ourselves from the British empire.

The world has changed many times over since the Declaration of Independence was signed.

Living in the United States of America has changed over the years; we have progressed and some might say that some forms of expression have regressed.

In my early years, people didn’t burn the flag — they respected the flag. The Pledge of Allegiance was said every morning to remind us of the freedoms we experienced and to show respect for our country.

Now swearing is rampant in everyday society. It is hard to walk down the street without swearing being heard in one form or another. Yet in other countries it is a crime and punishable by prison.

Social media, the news and the subject of gun control dominate conversations arguing the rights of our citizens with people voicing their opinions loudly, not caring who is disrespected.

My point is this — Independence Day, when our forefathers signed the Declaration of Independence, they broke free so that we have the freedom to swear in public, whether others like it or not. We have the freedom to desecrate our flag, whether others feel it is disrespectful to our country or not. We have the right to bear arms no matter how high the murder rate becomes. We have the right to bash our leaders and each other because we live in a free country. Life may have been much different if the Declaration of Independence were not signed. We may not have the freedoms I just described.

We take our freedom for granted and because of it we abuse those freedoms that were supposed to be for the good of the people so that we could pursue a life of liberty and happiness.

As you are out celebrating the day, take a few moments to be thankful for the freedoms we have, and to appreciate those freedoms and our country. In all the loudness of confrontation we forget to appreciate that which our forefathers protected.

Celebrate the day. Shout for joy. Let the fireworks begin and celebrate our great country. If you get a moment take the time to sing the national anthem, recite the Pledge of Allegiance or read the Declaration of Independence to remind yourself what the day is all about – our freedoms.