In America, extremists claim the flag, fireworks, and country music. It used to be mom and apple pie, and eagles have always played a part.
As any new trope emerges in public discourse in America, it is sorted out in relation to extremists and progressives. Folks who benightedly think they exist in the “independent” space between those two categories will sustain confusion temporarily, but eventually fall into one camp or another. (By count, most people are progressive, if you based the determination by checking off the issues they support or oppose. “Independent thinkers” are just citizens who have not actually thought about it much.)
But what about dog or cat owners? Are dogs or cats or their owners extremist or progressive? I’m thinking as a whole, neither, though I suppose certain breeds may trend one way or another. What about autism spectrum or neuro-divergent individuals, are they extremist or progressive? Well, everybody I personally know in that broad category is a progressive, but that is a biased sample. I would like to think that neuro-divergent folks would ultimately lean progressive, once exposed to the hate heaped upon them by the extremist right. So there may be some bias there, but not 100%. What about veterans? There is a strong association between conservative politics and the military, but most veterans are not part of the actual Military-Industrial Complex, and tend to be highly diverse in their politics. It is not possible for the extreme right to claim veterans. Veterans are everywhere and of every kind, politically. Who loves fireworks? Who hates the, or at least, is annoyed or bothered by them?
- Dogs, cats, and dog or cat owners that pay attention to and care about their pets are not super keen on fireworks.
- Vets are often bothered by fireworks.
- Folks with sensory processing issues, or noise sensitivity, are not super happy about fireworks.
So, I would say that the politics of liking or not liking fireworks, the question of whether firework displays are a good thing or a bad thing, should not match closely with the standard American political binary. People who like them may be across the political range of thought, and people who don’t like them should be as well. But, the principle I referred to above, that all new tropes will be shoved into one of the other of our two actual political silos, is true. And this is causing some interesting friction. If you don’t believe me, just check in on your local NextDoor community. People are staring to question whether or not we should have fireworks, including large displays by municipalities, neighborhood fireworks displays, and individual use, which tend to be small scale, but that also tend to be carried out over several weeks time centered on the Fourth of July. And others are lining up to fight on behalf of this Great American Tradition.
It turns out that loving fireworks is an extremist position. Caring about kids, vets, our pets and pet owners, others, who don’t like the noise and the smell, and in some cases, are really bothered by them, is a progressive position. Mostly. The bifurcation of viewpoints around the loud smelly bang-toys is not complete, but it is happening as we speak, and it is happening rapidly. Why, just his year, a city that can be counted as one of the most progressive cities in the US cancelled its fireworks display, and will have a laser light show instead. I speak of Minneapolis. Saint Paul has cancelled fireworks in the past, I’m not sure if they are doing it this year or not. At least one city in California has cancelled fireworks. Canadian cities have cancelled fireworks.
The reasons are not strictly political. In the case of California and Canada, a concern over air quality is the reason. But if the politics were hard right in those communities, those fireworks displays would not be cancelled. Extremists don’t believe that pollution exists. Some cancellations over the last few years have been Covid-concern. But Covid-concern is at least as political as the rockets’ red glare. Extremists don’t believe in viruses.
Fireworks are offensive, polluting, and jingoistic, not to mention dangerous in some settings. If you think so too, this is a good time to write an LTE to your local paper, to start the process of normalizing the idea that we might do something other than setting off smoke and noise polluting explosions to express our patriotism, and patriotism is not, despite what the extremists say, a right wing franchise. It belongs to all of us.