by Wayne Geiger
Independence Day means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. The Fourth of July is a national holiday and many of us get the day off. It’s a time to relax, hang out with the fam, throw some burgers on the grill, and blow something up. Most of us realize the Fourth is the time when we celebrate our independence—our freedom.
The date of July 4th is a little confusing. It wasn’t the day the Declaration of Independence was first drafted. That was in June of 1776. Nor was it the day the Continental Congress decided to declare independence—that was on July 2nd. It wasn’t even the day it was signed. That was on August 2. July 4, 1776 was the day when the final wording of the Declaration of Independence was accepted. The date just kind of stuck. It would not become a national holiday until about 100 years later in 1870.
Regardless of the day, we celebrate the Fourth as a day of freedom.
Freedom is a misunderstood term. In our day and age, it seems freedom is often defined as entitlement to personal happiness or the absence of restrictions. However, true freedom is not the absence of rules, but operating within the guidelines of rules.
Our individual rights do not undermine or contradict the rights of the larger community. If I am to be free to seek life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness and you also have those same freedoms, it only stands to reason that, at times, we will disagree. We need to remember, it’s not about me. It’s about us.
Spoiler alert. I’m going to type one word to illustrate this polarization and underlying tension within our community. This word may conjure up deep emotions and may even offend you. The word: fireworks. There, I said it.
Here, hold my root beer. Every year, I anxiously await the various posts on the Residents of Grain Valley Facebook page about fireworks. It’s an explosive topic (pun intended). And, like past years, this year did not disappoint. Grain Valley Mayor Michael Todd, perhaps hoping to deter calls and emails, posted a remark, noting, “Fireworks are a very polarizing topic in Grain Valley. I get more messages regarding fireworks than I do just about any other thing in town.” Wow! We’re a city that loves and hates our fireworks! We’re unified in our diversity.
The Mayor expressed the current ordinance and the rationale passed by the Board. In a nutshell, those using fireworks can do so for three days and it must include a Saturday. This year it will be July 3, 4, and 6th from 9 AM-11 PM. I would encourage you to read his post and the ordnance.
I appreciate the mayor’s proactive transparency, but my guess is that people will continue to complain, and the mayor’s inbox will be full. The issue is not our inability to hear or understand, but the fact that we just don’t personally like it. We are Americans and proud of it. By nature, we are children of rebellion. We are bold and brash and don’t like anybody getting in our business or telling us what to do. We don’t mind rules as long as they’re in our best interest. We don’t want people to mess with our perceived individual rights.
For the record, when it comes to fireworks, I’m not a huge fan. But that hasn’t always been the case. Some of my fondest memories as a kid involved blowing up stuff. I loved the 4th! True, I didn’t do it in the name of freedom, it was just fun. Also, when my children were younger, we would frequent the fireworks tent—naturally waiting until the “everything must go” sign went up. We loved adding to the community light show. It was fun and it was legal. In some weird sense, I felt a bond to the community.
At this stage in my life, my personal preference is to have fireworks on the Fourth and leave the light show to the professionals. Notice the phrase “personal preference.” Having said that, I try to remember, it’s not about me, it’s about us. My opinion is personal and does not reflect that of the larger community. I just suck it up.
Some people have some pretty good reasons for not liking fireworks. In some cases I can empathize, and in others, I truly sympathize.
I am truly sorry if the fireworks affect your sleep schedule. For many years, I worked as a morning show host and 3:15 AM came around early. I not only sympathize, but I can also empathize. I’ve always thought we should make the 5th of July a holiday too. It just doesn’t have the same ring.
I’m truly sorry that the fireworks frighten your dog. As an animal lover, I can identify with you. Our dog, Snickers, is not a fan. She becomes very upset at the lights and loud booms.
I also understand that you may live with one of the warriors among us who bravely defended our country and came home with something more than they bargained for. PTSD can transport a person back to a difficult and frightening time and place and cause them to relive a very dark experience as they conjure up visions of terror. I am truly sorry that the explosions on the Fourth bring to mind these dark memories.
But the Board has spoken and the show must go on. So, what do we do when our individual desires collide with the corporate rights of the larger community? Here are a couple of suggestions:
So, within the context of the city ordinance, have fun, be respectful, and celebrate the wonderful freedoms we have. For me, I’ll celebrate with a light show from professionals on the Fourth. On the two other days, I’ll likely darken the windows and put my ear buds in and recognize that I am in the minority and just suck it up.
Freedom and entitlement are two different things. At the end of the day, it’s not about me and my rights, it’s about us and our freedom. My guess is that something in this article has offended you. Isn’t it great to be an American?
Wayne Geiger is the Pastor of First Baptist Grain Valley, an Adjunct Associate Professor of Speech, and freelance writer. He can be reached at waynegeiger.com.