Big bang theory


When is a firecracker just a firecracker?

If you were in Wakefield — or anywhere else in the country — on July 4 weekend, you probably noticed a dramatic uptick in the volume of amateur fireworks compared to other years. You were not alone. “Fireworks complaint” was far and away the dominant entry in the local police log over the holiday weekend. On social media, residents who have never come within a continent of military combat insisted that their neighborhoods were “just like a war zone” once darkness fell on Independence Day.

There has been much speculation, and a few conspiracy theories, over the reasons for this year’s nationwide pyrotechnic explosion.

One plausible theory holds that people were simply bored after being cooped up for months with nowhere to go and nothing to do thanks to the government enforced shutdown. And with professional fireworks displays canceled from coast to coast, people simply decided to take matters into their own hands to a greater degree than normal.

A related theory holds that more and more Americans, sick and tired of being told by government bureaucrats what they can and cannot do, decided to blow off steam by blowing stuff up. Especially in Massachusetts, the last state where fireworks remain totally illegal, nothing says “You can’t tell me what to do” like shooting off some contraband bottle rockets and cherry bombs.

Another plausible explanation is marketing. With sales of professional fireworks in the tank due to the cancellation of all official celebrations, the fireworks industry has been doing everything possible to boost retail sales to consumers, with predictable results.

Those are some of the more innocent explanations. Now we get to the conspiracy theories. One is particularly cynical, so you might want to keep your tinfoil hat handy.

This theory holds that the drastic uptick in fireworks is part of a government plot. Some city dwellers have speculated that it’s all part of a coordinated assault on minority communities to keep them sleep-deprived and disoriented. It’s also a desensitization tactic, they claim, to get those communities used to loud noises because it’s going to sound like a war zone later this summer when the government crackdown comes.
I have my own theory. It may not be any more plausible than the aforementioned, but it’s decidedly less dark and cynical. I’m nothing if not an optimist.

I’d like to think that there is at least a small element of good old fashioned American pride at work here. After all, we’re talking about the Fourth of July. I realize that most of the time, fireworks are more a function of overgrown boys enjoying the act of blowing things up than an expression of raw patriotism. But, while it might not be foremost in the mind of the person lighting the fuse, the whole basis of fireworks on the Fourth comes from the patriotic imagery of “the rockets’ red glare” and “bombs bursting in air,” in that old song that the woke crowd now wants to cancel.

I’m hoping that at least a little bit of what we were seeing and hearing around the holiday was patriotic pushback against those who want to destroy and cancel American culture and history by tearing down statues of Christopher Columbus, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and even Abraham Lincoln.

What better way to resist these forces of anti-Americanism, enabled by government inaction, than by citizens collectively stepping into the vacuum and ramping up the celebration of their nation’s birthday in the loudest way possible?

It may be just another conspiracy theory, but if I have to choose, I’ll take the more hopeful and uplifting one.

[This column appeared in the July 9, 2020 Wakefield Daily Item.]

2 Responses to “Big bang theory”

  1. 1 Tony

    Great points, Mark. And I believe you’ve nailed it. The fireworks were a big middle finger to the Woke, BLM, Antifa and Blame America First crowds.
    Hope you had a bang-up Independence Day!

  2. 2 janice

    Great column Mark. Enjoyed the read. I’m so tired of all the lefties whining.
    If you don’t agree with them you must be racist!

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