Volume XI, Issue 26 ~ June 26-July 2, 2003

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A Modest Proposal
by Steve Carr

The other day I saw an old friend who moved away from Annapolis quite a few years ago. “Do they still shoot off fireworks at the Navy Stadium?” he asked.

I chuckled. “Man, you’ve been gone a long time, old buddy. They stopped using the stadium for the July Fourth fireworks show many, many years ago.”

“How come?” he asked.

I had to think about that one for a while. “I’m not sure,” was all I could finally come up with.

“So where do they shoot them off now?” asked my friend.

“Out in the harbor on a couple of big barges,” I replied.

Gus nodded with a smile. “That sounds pretty cool.”

“Yeah it is,” I agreed. Which, in turn, got me thinking.

You would think that doing and seeing the same things year in and year out for the Fourth of July would grow boring or tiresome. But just the opposite is true. The rituals and tradition seem to fan a patriotic flame that is eternal. Young and old delight together in the warm glow of family and country.

What is it then that makes July Fourth so special?

Well, it seems pretty obvious to me: it’s the only holiday we celebrate with fireworks. Everybody loves to see colors exploding brightly in the sky. It brings out some primeval pleasure.

The Asian people, who were nice enough to share their fireworks with us, figured this out long ago. That’s why Japanese cities not much bigger than Annapolis have extravagant fireworks celebrations. Everybody in town — not just the government — helps pay for the skyrockets. They compete against other nearby towns to see who can put on the best show. In Asia, fireworks are big business. Towns spend millions of dollars putting on a fireworks show. And they don’t need a national holiday to justify the expense.

Annapolis has had to go hat-in-hand these last few years to put on its fireworks display. The cost is somewhere around $20,000, and several local businesses have generously stepped in at the last minute to make sure we could afford the holiday light show. Other towns — Galesville, for one — work all year to put away enough money to support fireworks for the Fourth of July.

This is crazy. It shows how out of whack our priorities are. I would not suggest that the Fourth of July fireworks show is not only one of the most appreciated things that local government does over the course of any given year — it is also vital to our spirit and survival.

So, I propose a Fireworks Tax be imposed on all citizens. It’s a head tax of sorts, for children and adults alike (I’m thinking $1 per person) — so that we can be sure that as nighttime descends upon us on every future Fourth of July, we will be greeted by the sounds and sights of splendiferous fireworks.

In the fractured words of our Founding Fathers, each of us, as American citizens, has the inalienable right to, “life, liberty and the pursuit of fireworks.”


Editor’s note: Read more of Carr on fireworks next week.


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Last updated June 26, 2003 @ 1:19am