Sunday, June 24, 2007

Something to Shoot Fireworks About

Summer’s only real holiday, Independence Day, the Fourth of July, is quickly approaching. Unlike Christmas and Thanksgiving and more like New Year’s Eve and St. Patrick’s Day, July fourth is less about family closeness and more about celebrations and festivals. But it is also the time of year when family vacations are in full swing.

As a kid, the Fourth of July meant one thing to me: fireworks. Back then, the town’s fireworks display took place at Irwin Park. There were a few more ground displays than I’ve seen lately, but generally, the air show was less than spectacular with sometimes 10 or 20 seconds elapsing between explosions.

Although still less spectacular than what you might see at a larger venue, recent fireworks displays at the athletic complex have been much better than those of earlier years. Although, as then, I still worry about being struck by a stray bottle rocket or firecracker.

I’ve had the opportunity to witness other fireworks displays over the years. One of my favorites has always been the display shot off one of the bank buildings in downtown Indianapolis. And, for a number of years, the outlet mall south of town was the site of a very exciting presentation. It was synchronized with music from a Columbus radio station.

A similar display takes place in Indianapolis at White River State Park, but not on July fourth. It marks the end of summer and is also set to music. It more than rivals the bank tower display.

When I was a teenager, we took a vacation to Mackinaw City, Michigan. There, I got to see a small-town display at Saint Ignace, across the Straights of Mackinac from our campground. The fireworks were shot off at the north end of the famous Mackinac Bridge.

Fireworks displays are more impressive these days compared to those of my childhood not just because of the shear number of rockets that are launched into the sky, but because the individual fireworks are more beautiful. In the old days, there were just different color sparks in the air. Occasionally, one would take the shape of a flower or umbrella.

These days, however, there are hearts, rings, arrows, and those that have individual sparks that twinkle in unison. And unlike the days when volunteers had to light each rocket individually with a torch, most of today’s presentations are computer controlled. Yes, high technology has even encroached upon the fireworks industry. And it makes for much more beautiful, and safer, programs.

July fourth is more than about fireworks, however. It is, after all, Independence Day. The fireworks are not only celebratory, they commemorate the bomb blasts that were unfortunately necessary in order for this country to gain, and maintain, its independence.

In the early days of the country, we didn’t get much global respect. But the more battles we fought and won the more respect we garnered. It’s too bad, but military might is often a measure of how worthy a country is.

That only goes so far, however. Sometimes military might in the absence of a real threat turns a powerful, respected nation into a bully. That seems to be what has happened to the United States, thanks primarily to our current president.

Thankfully, the days of the present administration are growing short. The dim-witted, self-righteous, poor excuse for a leader that has plagued this country for the past seven years will turn the helm over to someone who is far more competent. Whoever it is, democrat or republican, man or woman, white or black, he or she will be much more competent than the lame duck currently in office.

We will then have even a better reason to shoot fireworks.

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